"THE REEF," "THE HOUSE OF MIRTH," ETC.
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY
D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY THE MCCLURE PUBLICATIONS, INC.
A GIRL came out of lawyer Royall's house,
at the end of the one street of North Dor-
mer, and stood on the doorstep.
It was the beginning of a June afternoon. The
springlike transparent sky shed a rain of silver sun-
shine on the roofs of the village, and on the pastures
and larchwoods surrounding it. A little wind
moved among the round white clouds on the shoul-
ders of the hills, driving their shadows across the
fields and down the grassy road that takes the name
of street when it passes through North Dormer.
The place lies high and in the open, and lacks the
lavish shade of the more protected New England
villages. The clump of weeping-willows about the
duck pond, and the Norway spruces in front of the
Hatchard gate, cast almost the only roadside
shadow between lawyer Royall's house and the
point where, at the other end of the village, the road
rises above the church and skirts the black hemlock
wall enclosing the cemetery.
The little June wind, frisking down the street,
shook the doleful fringes of the Hat chard spruces,
caught the straw hat of a young man just passing
under them, and spun it clean across the road into
As he ran to fish it out the girl on lawyer
Royall's doorstep noticed that he was a stranger,
that he wore city clothes, and that he was laughing
with all his teeth, as the young and careless laugh
at such mishaps.
Her heart contracted a little, and the shrinking
that sometimes came over her when she saw people
with holiday faces made her draw back into the
house and pretend to look for the key that she knew
she had already put into her pocket. A narrow
greenish mirror with a gilt eagle over it hung on
the passage wall, and she looked critically at her
reflection, wished for the thousandth time that she
had blue eyes like Annabel Balch, the girl who
sometimes came from Springfield to spend a week
with old Miss Hatchard, straightened the sunburnt
hat over her small swarthy face, and turned out
again into the sunshine.
"How I hate everything!" she murmured.
The young man had passed through the Hatchard
gate, and she had the street to herself. North
Dormer is at all times an empty place, and at three
o'clock on a June afternoon its few able-bodied men
are off in the fields or woods, and the women in-
doors, engaged in languid household drudgery.
The girl walked along, swinging her key on a fin-
ger, and looking about her with the heightened at-
tention produced by the presence of a stranger in a
familiar place. What, she wondered, did North
Dormer look like to people from other parts of the
world? She herself had lived there since the age
of five, and had long supposed it to be a place of
some importance. But about a year before, Mr.
Miles, the new Episcopal clergyman at Hepburn, who
drove over every other Sunday when the roads
were not ploughed up by hauling to hold a service
in the North Dormer church, had proposed, in a
fit of missionary zeal, to take the young people down
to Nettleton to hear an illustrated lecture on the
Holy Land ; and the dozen girls and boys who rep-
resented the future of North Dormer had been piled
into a farm-waggon, driven over the hills to Hep-
burn, put into a way-train and carried to Nettleton.
In the course of that incredible day Charity Royall
had, for the first and only time, experienced railway-
travel, looked into shops with plate-glass fronts,
tasted cocoanut pie, sat in a theatre, and listened to
a gentleman saying unintelligible things before pic-
tures that she would have enjoyed looking at if his
explanations had not prevented her from under-
standing them. This initiation had shown her that
North Dormer was a small place, and developed in
her a thirst for information that her position as cus-
todian of the village library had previously failed
to excite. For a month or two she dipped fever-
ishly and disconnectedly into the dusty volumes of
the Hatchard Memorial Library; then the impres-
sion of Nettleton began to fade, and she found it
easier to take North Dormer as the norm of the uni-
verse than to go on reading.
The sight of the stranger once more revived
memories of Nettleton, and North Dormer shrank
to its real size. As she looked up and down it, from
lawyer Royall's faded red house at one end to the
white church at the other, she pitilessly took its
measure. There it lay, a weather-beaten sunburnt
village of the hills, abandoned of men, left apart by
railway, trolley, telegraph, and all the forces that
link life to life in modern communities. It had no
shops, no theatres, no lectures, no "business block" ;
only a church that was opened every other Sunday
if the state of the roads permitted, and a library for
which no new books had been bought for twenty
years, and where the old ones mouldered undis-
turbed on the damp shelves. Yet Charity Royall
had always been told that she ought to consider it
a privilege that her lot had been cast in North Dor-
mer. She knew that, compared to the place she had
come from, North Dormer represented all the bless-
ings of the most refined civilization. Everyone in
the village had told her so ever since she had been
brought there as a child. Even old Miss Hatchard
had said to her, on a terrible occasion in her life:
"My child, you must never cease to remember that
it was Mr. Royall who brought you down from the
She had been "brought down from the Moun-
tain"; from the scarred cliff that lifted its sullen
wall above the lesser slopes of Eagle Range, mak-
ing a perpetual background of gloom to the lonely
valley. The Mountain was a good fifteen miles*
away, but it rose so abruptly from the lower hills
that it seemed almost to cast its shadow over North
Dormer. And it was like a great magnet drawing
the clouds and scattering them in storm across the
valley. If ever, in the purest summer sky, there
trailed a thread of vapour over North Dormer, it
drifted to the Mountain as a ship drifts to a whirl-
pool, and was caught among the rocks, torn up and
multiplied, to sweep back over the village in rain
Charity was not very clear about the Mountain ;
but she knew it was a bad place, and a shame to
have come from, and that, whatever befell her in
North Dormer, she ought, as Miss Hatchard had
once reminded her, to remember that she had been
brought down from there, and hold her tongue and
be thankful. She looked up at the Mountain, think-
ing of these things, and tried as usual to be thank-
ful. But the sight of the young man turning in at
Miss Hatchard's gate had brought back the vision
of the glittering streets of Nettleton, and she felt
ashamed of her old sun-hat, and sick of North Dor-
mer, and jealously aware of Annabel Balch of
Springfield, opening her blue eyes somewhere far
off on glories greater than the glories of Nettleton.
"How I hate everything!" she said again.
Half way down the street she stopped at a weak-
hinged gate. Passing through it, she walked down
a brick path to a queer little brick temple with white
wooden columns supporting a pediment on which
was inscribed in tarnished gold letters : "The Hon-
orius Hatchard Memorial Library, 1832."
Honorius Hatchard had been old Miss Hatch-
ard' s great-uncle; though she would undoubtedly
have reversed the phrase, and put forward, as her
only claim to distinction, the fact that she was his
great-niece. For Honorius Hatchard, in the early
years of the nineteenth century, had enjoyed a mod-
est celebrity. As the marble tablet in the interior
of the library informed its infrequent visitors, he
had possessed marked literary gifts, written a series
of papers called "The Recluse of Eagle Range/'
enjoyed the acquaintance of Washington Irving
and Fitz-Greene Halleck, and been cut off in his
flower by a fever contracted in Italy. Such had
been the sole link between North Dormer and lit-
erature, a link piously commemorated by the erec-
tion of the monument where Charity Royall, every
Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, sat at her desk
under a freckled steel engraving of the deceased
author, and wondered if he felt any deader in his
grave than she did in his library.
Entering her prison-house with a listless step she
took off her hat, hung it on a plaster bust of Mi-
nerva, opened the shutters, leaned out to see if
there were any eggs in the swallow's nest above one
of the windows, and finally, seating herself behind
the desk, drew out a roll of cotton lace and a steel
crochet hook. She was not an expert workwoman,
and it had taken her many weeks to make the half-
yard of narrow lace which she kept wound about
the buckram back of a disintegrated copy of "The
Lamplighter." But there was no other way of get-
ting any lace to trim her summer blouse, and since
Ally Hawes, the poorest girl in the village, had
shown herself in church with enviable transparen-
cies about the shoulders, Charity's hook had trav-
elled faster. She unrolled the lace, dug the hook
into a loop, and bent to the task with furrowed
Suddenly the door opened, and before she had
raised her eyes she knew that the young man she
had seen going in at the Hatchard gate had en-
tered the library.
Without taking any notice of her he began to
move slowly about the long vault-like room, his
hands behind his back, his short-sighted eyes oeer-
ing up and down the rows of rusty bindings. At
length he reached the desk and stood before her.
"Have you a card-catalogue?" he asked in a
pleasant abrupt voice ; and the oddness of the ques-
tion caused her to drop her work.
"Why, you know " He broke off, and she be-
came conscious that he was looking at her for the
first time, having apparently, on his entrance, in-
cluded her in his general short-sighted survey as
part of the furniture of the library.
The fact that, in discovering her, he lost the
thread of his remark, did not escape her attention,
and she looked down and smiled. He smiled also.
"No, I don't suppose you do know," he corrected
himself. "In fact, it would be almost a pity "
She thought she detected a slight condescension
in his tone, and asked sharply: "Why?"
"Because it's so much pleasanter, in a small li-
brary like this, to poke about by one's self with
the help of the librarian."
He added the last phrase so respectfully that she
was mollified, and rejoined with a sigh: "I'm
afraid I can't help you much."
"Why?" he questioned in his turn; and she re-
plied that there weren't many books anyhow, and
that she'd hardly read any of them. "The worms
are getting at them," she added gloomily.
"Are they? That's a pity, for I see there are
some good ones." He seemed to have lost interest
in their conversation, and strolled away again, ap-
parently forgetting her. His indifference nettled
her, and she picked up her work, resolved not to
offer him the least assistance. Apparently he did
not need it, for he spent a long time with his back
to her, lifting down, one after another, the tall cob-
webby volumes from a distant shelf.
"Oh, I say I" he exclaimed; and looking up she
saw that he had drawn out his handkerchief and
was carefully wiping the edges of the book in his
hand. The action struck her as an unwarranted
criticism on her care of the books, and she said ir-
ritably: "It's not my fault if they're dirty."
He turned around and looked at her with reviv-
ing interest. "Ah then you're not the librarian?"
"Of course I am ; but I can't dust all these books.
Besides, nobody ever looks at them, now Miss
Hatchard's too lame to come round."
"No, I suppose not." He laid down the book he
had been wiping, and stood considering her in si-
lence. She wondered if Miss Hatchard had sent
him round to pry into the way the library was
looked after, and the suspicion increased her resent-
ment. "I saw you going into her house just now,
didn't I?" she asked, with the New England avoid-
ance of the proper name. She was determined to
find out why he was poking about among her books.
"Miss Hatchard's house? Yes she's my cousin
and I'm staying there," the young man answered;
adding, as if to disarm a visible distrust: "My
name is Harney Lucius Harney. She may have
spoken of me."
"No, she hasn't," said Charity, wishing she could
have said : "Yes, she has."
"Oh, well " said Miss Hatchard's cousin with
a laugh; and after another pause, during which it
occurred to Charity that her answer had not been
encouraging, he remarked: "You don't seem
strong on architecture."
Her bewilderment was complete: the more she
wished to appear to understand him the more un-
intelligible his remarks became. He reminded her
of the gentleman who had "explained" the pictures
at Nettleton, and the weight of her ignorance set-
tled down on her again like a pall.
"I mean, I can't see that you have any books
on the old houses about here. I suppose, for that
matter, this part of the country hasn't been much
explored. They all go on doing Plymouth and Salem.
So stupid. My cousin's house, now, is remarkable.
This place must have had a past it must have been
more of a place once." He stopped short, with the
blush of a shy man who overhears himself, and fears
he has been voluble. "I'm an architect, you see, and
I'm hunting up old houses in these parts."
She stared. "Old houses? Everything's old in
North Dormer, isn't it? The folks are, anyhow/'
He laughed, and wandered away again.
"Haven't you any kind of a history of the place ?
I think there was one written about 1840: a book
or pamphlet about its first settlement," he presently
said from the farther end of the room.
She pressed her crochet hook against her lip
and pondered. There was such a work, she knew :
"North Dormer and the Early Townships of Eagle
County." She had a special grudge against it be-
cause it was a limp weakly book that was always
either falling off the shelf or slipping back and dis-
appearing if one squeezed it in between sustaining
volumes. She remembered, the last time she had
picked it up, wondering how anyone could have
taken the trouble to write a book about North Dor-
mer and its neighbours : Dormer, Hamblin, Creston
and Creston River. She knew them all, mere lost
clusters of houses in the folds of the desolate ridges :
Dormer, where North Dormer went for its ap-
ples ; Creston River, where there used to be a paper-
mill, and its grey walls stood decaying by the
stream; and Hamblin, where the first snow always
fell. Such were their titles to fame.
She got up and began to move about vaguely be-
fore the shelves. But she had no idea where she
had last put the book, and something told her that
it was going to play her its usual trick and remain
invisible. It was not one of her lucky days.
"I guess it's somewhere," she said, to prove her
zeal; but she spoke without conviction, and felt
that her words conveyed none.
"Oh, well " he said again. She knew he was
going, and wished more than ever to find the book.
"It will be for next time," he added ; and picking
up the volume he had laid on the desk he handed
it to her. "By the way, a little air and sun would
do this good ; it's rather valuable."
He gave her a nod and smile, and passed out.
THE hours of the Hatchard Memorial libra-
rian were from three to five; and Charity
Royall's sense of duty usually kept her at her desk
until nearly half -past four.
But she had never perceived that any practical
advantage thereby accrued either to North Dormer
or to herself; and she had no scruple in decreeing,
when it suited her, that the library should close an
hour earlier. A few minutes after Mr. Harney's
departure she formed this decision, put away her
lace, fastened the shutters, and turned the key in
the door of the temple of knowledge.
The street upon which she emerged was still
empty: and after glancing up and down it she be-
gan to walk toward her house. But instead of en-
tering she passed on, turned into a field-path and
mounted to a pasture on the hillside. She let down
the bars of the gate, followed a trail along the
crumbling wall of the pasture, and walked on till
she reached a knoll where a clump of larches shook
out their fresh tassels to the wind. There she lay
down on the slope, tossed off her hat and hid her
face in the grass.
She was blind and insensible to many things, and
dimly knew it; but to all that was light and air,
perfume and colour, every drop of blood in her
responded. She loved the roughness of the dry
mountain grass under her palms, the smell of the
thyme into which she crushed her face, the finger-
ing of the wind in her hair and through her cot-
ton blouse, and the creak of the larches as they
swayed to it.
She often climbed up the hill and lay there alone
for the mere pleasure of feeling the wind and of
rubbing her cheeks in the grass. Generally at such
times she did not think of anything, but lay im-
mersed in an inarticulate well-being. Today the
sense of well-being was intensified by her joy at
escaping from the library. She liked well enough
to have a friend drop in and talk to her when she
was on duty, but she hated to be bothered about
books. How could she remember where they were,
when they were so seldom asked for? Orma Fry
occasionally took out a novel, and her brother Ben
was fond of what he called "jography," and of
books relating to trade and bookkeeping; but no
one else asked for anything except, at intervals,
"Uncle Tom's Cabin," or "Opening a Chestnut
Burr," or Longfellow. She had these under her
hand, and could have found them in the dark; but
unexpected demands came so rarely that they exas-
perated her like an injustice. . . .
She had liked the young man's looks, and his
short-sighted eyes, and his odd way of speaking,
that was abrupt yet soft, just as his hands were sun-
burnt and sinewy, yet with smooth nails like a
woman's. His hair was sunburnt-looking too, or
rather the colour of bracken after frost; his eyes
grey, with the appealing look of the shortsighted,
his smile shy yet confident, as if he knew lots of
things she had never dreamed of, and yet wouldn't
for the world have had her feel his superiority. But
she did feel it, and liked the feeling; for it was new
to her. Poor and ignorant as she was, and knew
herself to be humblest of the humble even in
North Dormer, where to come from the Mountain
was the worst disgrace yet in her narrow world
she had always ruled. It was partly, of course,
owing to the fact that lawyer Royall was "the
biggest man in North Dormer"; so much too big
for it, in fact, that outsiders, who didn't know, al-
ways wondered how it held him. In spite of every-
thing and in spite even of Miss Hatchard law-
yer Royall ruled in North Dormer; and Charity
ruled in lawyer Royall's house. She had never
put it to herself in those terms; but she knew her
power, knew what it was made of, and hated it.
Confusedly, the young man in the library had made
her feel for the first time what might be the sweet-
ness of dependence.
She sat up, brushed the bits of grass from her
hair, and looked down on the house where she held
sway. It stood just below her, cheerless and un-
tended, its faded red front divided from the road
by a "yard" with a path bordered by gooseberry
bushes, a stone well overgrown with traveller's joy,
and a sickly Crimson Rambler tied to a fan-shaped
support, which Mr. Royall had once brought up
from Hepburn to please her. Behind the house a
bit of uneven ground with clothes-lines strung
across it stretched up to a dry wall, and beyond the
wall a patch of corn and a few rows of potatoes
strayed vaguely into the adjoining wilderness of
rock and fern.
Charity could not recall her first sight of the
house. She had been told that she was ill of a fever
when she was brought down from the Mountain;
and she could only remember waking one day in
a cot at the foot of Mrs. Royall's bed, and open-
ing her eyes on the cold neatness of the room that
was afterward to be hers.
Mrs. Royall died seven or eight years later ; and
by that time Charity had taken the measure of most
things about her. She knew that Mrs. Royall was
sad and timid and weak; she knew that lawyer
Royall was harsh and violent, and still weaker. She
knew that she had been christened Charity (in the
white church at the other end of the village) to
commemorate Mr. Royall's disinterestedness in
"bringing her down," and to keep alive in her a be-
coming sense of her dependence ; she knew that Mr.
Royall was her guardian, but that he had not legally
adopted her, though everybody spoke of her as
Charity Royall; and she knew why he had come
back to live at North Dormer, instead of practising
at Nettleton, where he had begun his legal career.
After Mrs. Royall's death there was some talk
of sending her to a boarding-school. Miss Hatch-
ard suggested it, and had a long conference with
Mr. Royall, who, in pursuance of her plan, departed
one day for Starkfield to visit the institution she
recommended. He came back the next night with
a black face ; worse, Charity observed, than she had
ever seen him; and by that time she had had some
When she asked him how soon she was to start
he answered shortly, "You ain't going," and shut
himself up in the room he called his office; and
the next day the lady who kept the school at Stark-
field wrote that "under the circumstances" she was
afraid she could not make room just then for an-
Charity was disappointed; but she understood.
It wasn't the temptations of Starkfield that had
been Mr. Royall's undoing; it was the thought of
losing her. He was a dreadfully "lonesome" man ;
she had made that out because she was so "lone-
some" herself. He and she, face to face in that
sad house, had sounded the depths of isolation ; and
though she felt no particular affection for him,
and not the slightest gratitude, she pitied him be-
cause she was conscious that he was superior to
the people about him, and that she was the only
being between him and solitude. Therefore, when
Miss Hatchard sent for her a day or two later, to
talk of a school at Nettleton, and to say that this
time a friend of hers would "make the necessary
arrangements/' Charity cut her short with the an-
nouncement that she had decided not to leave North
Miss Hatchard reasoned with her kindly, but to
no purpose; she simply repeated: "I guess Mr.
Royall's too lonesome/'
Miss Hatchard blinked perplexedly behind her
eye-glasses. 13er long frail face was full of puzzled
wrinkles, and she leant forward, resting her hands
on the arms of her mahogany armchair, with the
evident desire to say something that ought to be
"The feeling does you credit, my dear."
She looked about the pale walls of her sitting-
room, seeking counsel of ancestral daguerreotypes
and didactic samplers; but they seemed to make ut-
terance more difficult.
"The fact is, it's not only not only because of
the advantages. There are other reasons. You're
too young to understand "
"Oh, no, I ain't," said Charity harshly ; and Miss
Hatchard blushed to the roots of her blonde cap.
But she must have felt a vague relief at having
her explanation cut short, for she concluded, again
invoking the daguerreotypes: "Of course I shall
always do what I can for you; and in case ... in
case . . . you know you can always come to
me. . . ."
Lawyer Royall was waiting for Charity in the
porch when she returned from this visit. He had
shaved, and brushed his black coat, and looked a
magnificent monument of a man; at such moments
she really admired him.
"Well," he said, "is it settled?"
"Yes, it's settled. I ain't going."
"Not to the Nettleton school?"
He cleared his throat and asked sternly : "Why?*'
"I'd rather not," she said, swinging past him on
her way to her room. It was the following week
that he brought her up the Crimson Rambler and
its fan from Hepburn. He had never given her
The next outstanding incident of her life had
happened two years later, when she was seventeen.
Lawyer Royall, who hated to go to Nettleton, had
been called there in connection with a case. He
still exercised his profession, though litigation Ian-
guished in North Dormer and its outlying hamlets ;
and for once he had had an opportunity that he
could not afford to refuse. He spent three days in
Nettleton, won his case, and came back in high
good-humour. It was a rare mood with him, and
manifested itself on this occasion by his talking
impressively at the supper-table of the "rousing
welcome" his old friends had given him. He wound
up confidentially : "I was a damn fool ever to leave
Nettleton. It was Mrs. Royall that made me do it."
Charity immediately perceived that something bit-
ter had happened to him, and that he was trying to
talk down the recollection. She went up to bed
early, leaving him seated in moody thought, his
elbows propped on the worn oilcloth of the supper
table. On the way up she had extracted from his
overcoat pocket the key of the cupboard where the
bottle of whiskey was kept.
She was awakened by a rattling at her door and
jumped out of bed. She heard Mr. RoyalPs voice,
low and peremptory, and opened the door, fearing
an accident. No other thought had occurred to
her; but when she saw him in the doorway, a ray
from the autumn moon falling on his discomposed
face, she understood.
For a moment they looked at each other in si-
lence; then, as he put his foot across the thresh-
old, she stretched out her arm and stopped him.
"You go right back from here," she said, in a
shrill voice that startled her; "you ain't going to
have that key tonight."
"Charity, let me in. I don't want the key. I'm
a lonesome man," he began, in the deep voice that
sometimes moved her.
Her heart gave a startled plunge, but she con-
tinued to hold him back contemptuously. "Well,
I guess you made a mistake, then. This ain't your
wife's room any longer."
She was not frightened, she simply felt a deep
disgust; and perhaps he divined it or read it in her
face, for after staring at her a moment he drew
back and turned slowly away from the door. With
her ear to her keyhole she heard him feel his way
down the dark stairs, and toward the kitchen; and
she listened for the crash of the cupboard panel.
But instead she heard him, after an interval, unlock
the door of the house, and his heavy steps came
to her through the silence as he walked down the
path. She crept to the window and saw his bent
figure striding up the road in the moonlight. Then
a belated sense of fear came to her with the con-
sciousness of victory, and she slipped into bed, cold
to the bone.
A day or two later poor Eudora Skeff, who for
twenty years had been the custodian of the Hatch-
ard library, died suddenly of pneumonia; and the
day after the funeral Charity went to see Miss
Hatchard, and asked to be appointed librarian. The
request seemed to surprise Miss Hatchard : she evi-
dently questioned the new candidate's qualifications.
"Why, I don't know, my dear. Aren't you
rather too young?" she hesitated.
"I want to earn some money," Charity merely an-
"Doesn't Mr. Royall give you all you require?
No one is rich in North Dormer."
"I want to earn money enough to get away."
"To get away?" Miss Hatchard's puzzled wrin-
kles deepened, and there was a distressful pause.
"You want to leave Mr. Royall ?"
"Yes : or I want another woman in the house with
me," said Charity resolutely.
Miss Hatchard clasped her nervous hands about
the arms of her chair. Her eyes invoked the faded
countenances on the wall, and after a faint cough
of indecision she brought out: "The . . . the
housework's too hard for you, I suppose?"
Charity's heart grew cold. She understood that
Miss Hatchard had no help to give her and that she
would have to fight her way out of her difficulty
alone. A deeper sense of isolation overcame her;
she felt incalculably old. "She's got to be talked
to like a baby," she thought, with a feeling of com-
passion for Miss Hatchard's long immaturity. "Yes,
that's it," she said aloud. "The housework's too
hard for me: I've been coughing a good deal this
She noted the immediate effect of this suggestion.
Miss Hatchard paled at the memory of poor Eudo-
ra's taking-off, and promised to do what she could.
But of course there were people she must consult :
the clergyman, the selectmen of North Dormer, and
a distant Hatchard relative at Springfield. "If
you'd only gone to school!" she sighed. She fol-
lowed Charity to the door, and there, in the se-
curity of the threshold, said with a glance of eva-
sive appeal: "I know Mr. Royall is ... trying
at times; but his wife bore with him; and you must
always remember, Charity, that it was Mr. RoyalL
who brought you down from the Mountain."
Charity went home and opened the door of Mr.
Royall's "office." He was sitting there by the stove
reading Daniel Webster's speeches. They had met
at meals during the five days that had elapsed since
he had come to her door, and she had walked at his
side at Eudora's funeral; but they had not spoken
a word to each other.
He glanced up in surprise as she entered, and she
noticed that he was unshaved, and that he looked
unusually old; but as she had always thought of
him as an old man the change in his appearance did
not move her. She told him she had been to see
Miss Hatchard, and with what object. She saw that
he was astonished; but he made no comment.
"I told her the housework was too hard for me,
and I wanted to earn the money to pay for a hired
girl. But I ain't going to pay for her: you've got
to. I want to have some money of my own."
Mr. Royall's bushy black eyebrows were drawn
together in a frown, and he sat drumming with ink-
stained nails on the edge of his desk.
"What do you want to earn money for?" he
"So's to get away when I want to."
"Why do you want to get away?"
Her contempt flashed out. "Do you suppose
anybody'd stay at North Dormer if they could help
it ? You wouldn't, folks say !"
With lowered head he asked : "Where'd you go
"Anywhere where I can earn my living. I'll try
here first, and if I can't do it here I'll go somewhere
else. I'll go up the Mountain if I have to." She
paused on this threat, and saw that it had taken
effect. "I want you should get Miss Hatchard and
the selectmen to take me at the library : and I want
a woman here in the house with me," she repeated.
Mr. Royall had grown exceedingly pale. When
she ended he stood up ponderously, leaning against
the desk; and for a second or two they looked at
"See here," he said at length, as though utter-
ance were difficult, "there's something I've been
wanting to say to you ; I'd ought to have said it be-
fore. I want you to marry me."
The girl still stared at him without moving. "I
want you to marry me," he repeated, clearing his
throat "The minister'll be up here next Sunday
and we can fix it up then. Or I'll drive you down
to Hepburn to the Justice, and get it done t
I'll do whatever you say." His eyes fell under the
merciless stare she continued to fix on him, and he
shifted his weight uneasily from one foot to the
other. As he stood there before her, unwieldy,
shabby, disordered, the purple veins distorting the
hands he pressed against the desk, and his long ora-
tor's jaw trembling with the effort of his avowal,
he seemed like a hideous parody of the fatherly old
man she had always known.
"Marry you? Me?" she burst out with a scorn-
ful laugh. "Was that what you came to ask me
the other night? What's come over you, I wonder?
How long is it since you've looked at yourself in
the glass?" She straightened herself, insolently
conscious of her youth and strength. "I suppose
you think it would be cheaper to marry me than
to keep a hired girl. Everybody knows you're the
closest man in Eagle County; but I guess you're
not going to get your mending done for you that
Mr. Royall did not move while she spoke. His
face was ash-coloured and his black eyebrows quiv-
ered as though the blaze of her scorn had blinded
him. When she ceased he held up his hand.
"That'll do that'll about do," he said. He turned
to the door and took his hat from the hat-peg. On
the threshold he paused. "People ain't been fair
to me from the first they ain't been fair to me,"
he said. Then he went out.
A few days later North Dormer learned with
surprise that Charity had been appointed librarian
of the Hatchard Memorial at a salary of eight dol-
lars a month, and that old Verena Marsh, from the
Creston Almshouse, was coming to live at lawyer
Royall's and do the cooking.
IT was not in the room known at the red house
as Mr. Royall's "office" that he received his
infrequent clients. Professional dignity and mas-
culine independence made it necessary that he
should have a real office, under a different roof;
and his standing as the only lawyer of North Dor-
mer required that the roof should be the same as
that which sheltered the Town Hall and the post-
It was his habit to walk to this office twice a day,
morning and afternoon. It was on the ground floor
of the building, with a separate entrance, and a
weathered name-plate on the door. Before going
in he stepped in to the post-office for his mail
usually an empty ceremony said a word or two to
the town-clerk, who sat across the passage in idle
state, and then went over to the store on the oppo-
site corner, where Carrick Fry, the storekeeper, al-
ways kept a chair for him, and where he was sure
to find one or two selectmen leaning on the long
counter, in an atmosphere of rope, leather, tar and
coffee-beans. Mr. Royall, though monosyllabic at
home, was not averse, in certain moods, to impart-
ing his views to his fellow-townsmen ; perhaps, also,
he was unwilling that his rare clients should sur-
prise him sitting, clerkless and unoccupied, in his
dusty office. At any rate, his hours there were not
much longer or more regular than Charity's at the
library; the rest of the time he spent either at the
store or in driving about the country on business
connected with the insurance companies that he rep-
resented, or in sitting at home reading Bancroft's
History of the United States and the speeches of
i Since the day when Charity had told him that
she wished to succeed to Eudora SkefFs post their
relations had undefinably but definitely changed.
Lawyer Royall had kept his word. He had ob-
tained the place for her at the cost of considerable
manceuvering, as she guessed from the number of
rival candidates, and from the acerbity with which
two of them, Orma Fry and the eldest Targatt
girl, treated her for nearly a year afterward. And
he had engaged Verena Marsh to come up from
Creston and do the cooking. Verena was a poor
old widow, doddering and shiftless: Charity sus-
pected that she came for her keep. Mr. Royall was
too close a man to give a dollar a day to a smart
girl when he could get a deaf pauper for nothing.
But at any rate, Verena was there, in the attic
just over Charity, and the fact that she was deaf
did not greatly trouble the young girl.
Charity knew that what had happened on that
hateful night would not happen again. She un-
derstood that, profoundly as she had despised Mr.
Royall ever since, he despised himself still more
profoundly. If she had asked for a woman in
the house it was far less for her own defense than
for his humiliation. She needed no one to defend
her: his humbled pride was her surest protection.
He had never spoken a word of excuse or extenua-
tion; the incident was as if it had never been. Yet
its consequences were latent in every word that
he and she exchanged, in every glance they in-
stinctively turned from each other. Nothing now
would ever shake her rule in the red house.
On the night of her meeting with Miss Hatch-
ard's cousin Charity lay in bed, her bare arms
clasped under her rough head, and continued to
think of him. She supposed that he meant to spend
some time in North Dormer. He had said he was
looking up the old houses in the neighbourhood;
and though she was not very clear as to his pur-
pose, or as to why anyone should look for old
houses, when they lay in wait for one on every
roadside, she understood that he needed the help
of books, and resolved to hunt up the next day the
volume she had failed to find, and any others that
seemed related to the subject.
Never had her ignorance of life and literature
so weighed on her as in reliving the short scene of
her discomfiture. "It's no use trying to be anything
in this place," she muttered to her pillow ; and she
shrivelled at the vision of vague metropolises, shin-
ing super-Nettletons, where girls in better clothes
than Belle Batch's talked fluently of architecture to
young men with hands like Lucius Harney's. Then
she remembered his sudden pause when he had
come close to the desk and had his first look at
her. The sight had made him forget what he was
going to say; she recalled the change in his face,
and jumping up she ran over the bare boards to
her washstand, found the matches, lit a candle, and
lifted it to the square of looking-glass on the white-
washed wall. Her small face, usually so darkly
pale, glowed like a rose in the faint orb of light,
and under her rumpled hair her eyes seemed deeper
and larger than by day. Perhaps after all it was
a mistake to wish they were blue. A clumsy band
and button fastened her unbleached night-gown
about the throat. She undid it, freed her thin
shoulders, and saw herself a bride in low-necked
satin, walking down an aisle with Lucius Harney.
He would kiss her as they left the church. . . .
She put down the candle and covered her face with
her hands as if to imprison the kiss. At that mo-
ment she heard Mr. Royall' s step as he came up
the stairs to bed, and a fierce revulsion of feeling
swept over her. Until then she had merely de-
spised him; now deep hatred of him filled her heart.
He became to her a horrible old man. . . .
The next day, when Mr. Royall came back to
dinner, they faced each other in silence as usual.
Verena's presence at the table was an excuse for
their not talking, though her deafness would have
permitted the freest interchange of confidences. But
when the meal was over, and Mr. Royall rose from
the table, he looked back at Charity, who had
stayed to help the old woman clear away the dishes.
"I want to speak to you a minute," he said ; and
she followed him across the passage, wondering.
He seated himself in his black horse-hair arm-
chair, and she leaned against the window, indif-
ferently. She was impatient to be gone to the
library, to hunt for the book on North Dormer.
"See here," he said, "why ain't you at the library
the days you're supposed to be there?"
The question, breaking in on her mood of bliss-
ful abstraction, deprived her of speech, and she
stared at him for a moment without answering.
"Who says I ain't?"
"There's been some complaints made, it appears.
Miss Hat chard sent for me this morning "
Charity's smouldering resentment broke into a
blaze. "I know! Orma Fry, and that toad of a
Targatt girl and Ben Fry, like as not. He's go-
ing round with her. The low-down sneaks I al-
ways knew they'd try to have me out! As if any-
ly ever came to the library, anyhow!"
"Somebody did yesterday, and you weren't
"Yesterday?" she laughed at her happy recollec-
tion. "At what time wasn't I there yesterday, I'd
like to know?"
"Round about four o'clock."
Charity was silent. She had been so steeped in
the dreamy remembrance of young Harney's visit
that she had forgotten having deserted her post as
soon as he had left the library.
"Who came at four o'clock?"
"Miss Hatchard did."
"Miss Hatchard ? Why, she ain't ever been near
the place since she's been lame. She couldn't get
up the steps if she tried."
"She can be helped up, I guess. She was yes-
terday, anyhow, by the young fellow that's stay-
ing with her. He found you there, I understand,
earlier in the afternoon; and he went back and
told Miss Hatchard the books were in bad shape
and needed attending to. She got excited, and had
herself wheeled straight round; and when she got
there the place was locked. So she sent for me,
and told me about that, and about the other com-
plaints. She claims you've neglected things, and
that she's going to get a trained librarian."
Charity had not moved while he spoke. She
stood with her head thrown back against the win-
dow-frame, her arms hanging against her sides, and
her hands so tightly clenched that she felt, with-
out knowing what hurt her, the sharp edge of her
nails against her palms.
Of all Mr. Royall had said she had retained only
the phrase: "He told Miss Hatchard the books
were in bad shape." What did she care for the
other charges against her? Malice or truth, she
despised them as she despised her detractors. But
that the stranger to whom she had felt herself
so mysteriously drawn should have betrayed her!
That at the very moment when she had fled up the
hillside to think of him more deliciously he should
have been hastening home to denounce her short-
comings! She remembered how, in the darkness
of her room, she had covered her face to press his
imagined kiss closer; and her heart raged against
him for the liberty he had not taken.
"Well, I'll go/' she said suddenly. "I'll go right
"Go where?" She heard the startled note in Mr.
"Why, out of their old library: straight out, and
never set foot in it again. They needn't think I'm
going to wait round and let them say they've dis-
"Charity Charity Royall, you listen " he be-
gan, getting heavily out of his chair; but she w<
him aside, and walked out of the room.
Upstairs she took the library key from the place
where she always hid it under her pincushion who
said she wasn't careful ? put on her hat, and swept
down again and out into the street. If Mr. Royall
heard her go he made no motion to detain her:
his sudden rages probably made him understand
the uselessness of reasoning with hers.
She reached the brick temple, unlocked the door
and entered into the glacial twilight. "I'm glad
I'll never have to sit in this old vault again when
other folks are out in the sun!" she said aloud
as the familiar chill took her. She looked with
abhorrence at the long dingy rows of books, the
sheep-nosed Minerva on her black pedestal, and
the mild-faced young man in a high stock whose
effigy pined above her desk. She meant to take
out of the drawer her roll of lace and the library
register, and go straight to Miss Hatchard to an-
nounce her resignation. But suddenly a great deso-
lation overcame her, and she sat down and laid
her face against the desk. Her heart was ravaged
by life's cruellest discovery: the first creature who
had come toward her out of the wilderness had
brought her anguish instead of joy. She did not
cry; tears came hard to her, and the storms of her
heart spent themselves inwardly. But as she sat
there in her dumb woe she felt her life to be too
desolate, too ugly and intolerable.
"What have I ever done to it, that it should
hurt me so?" she groaned, and pressed her fists
against her lids, which were beginning to swell with
"I won't I won't go there looking like a hor-
ror!" she muttered, springing up and pushing back
her hair as if it stifled her. She opened the drawer,
dragged out the register, and turned toward the
door. As she did so it opened, and the young
man from Miss Hatchard's came in whistling.
HE stopped and lifted his hat with a shy smile.
"I beg your pardon," he said. "I thought
there was no one here."
Charity stood before him, barring his way. "You
can't come in. The library ain't open to the pub-
"I know it's not; but my cousin gave me her
"Miss Hatchard's got no right to give her key
to other folks, any more'n I have. I'm the librarian
and I know the by-laws. This is my library."
The young man looked profoundly surprised.
"Why, I know it is; I'm so sorry if you mind
"I suppose you came to see what more you could
say to set her against me? But you needn't trou-
ble : it's my library today, but it won't be this time
tomorrow. I'm on the way now to take her back
the key and the register."
Young Harney's face grew grave, but without
betraying the consciousness of guilt she had looked
"I don't understand," he said. "There must be
some mistake. Why should I say things against
you to Miss Hatchard or to anyone?"
The apparent evasiveness of the reply caused
Charity's indignation to overflow. "I- don't know
why you should. I could understand Orma Fry's
doing it, because she's always wanted to get me out
of here ever since the first day. I can't see why,
when she's got her own home, and her father to
work for her; nor Ida Targatt, neither, when she
got a legacy from her step-brother on'y last year.
But anyway we all live in the same place, and when
it's a place like North Dormer it's enough to make
people hate each other just to have to walk down
the same street every day. But you don't live here,
and you don't know anything about any of us, so
what did you have to meddle for ? Do you suppose
the other girls'd have kept the books any better 'n I
did? Why, Orma Fry don't hardly know a book
from a flat-iron! And what if I don't always sit
round here doing nothing till it strikes five up at the
church? Who cares if the library's open or shut?
Do you suppose anybody ever comes here for books?
What they'd like to come for is to meet the fel-
lows they're going with if I'd let 'em. But I
wouldn't let Bill Sollas from over the hill hang
round here waiting for the youngest Targatt girl,
because I know him . . . that's all ... even if
I don't know about books all I ought to. . . . '
She stopped with a choking in her throat. Trem-
ors of rage were running through her, and she
steadied herself against the edge of the desk lest
he should see her weakness.
What he saw seemed to affect him deeply, for
he grew red under his sunburn, and stammered out :
"But, Miss Royall, I assure you ... I assure
you ... "
His distress inflamed her anger, and she regained
her voice to fling back : "If I was you I'd have the
nerve to stick to what I said !"
The taunt seemed to restore his presence of mind.
"I hope I should if I knew; but I don't. Appar-
ently something disagreeable has happened, for
which you think I'm to blame. But I don't know
what it is, because I've been up on Eagle Ridge
ever since the early morning."
"I don't know where you've been this morning,
but I know you were here in this library yesterday ;
and it was you that went home and told your cousin
the books were in bad shape, and brought her round
to see how I'd neglected them.'*
Young Harney looked sincerely concerned. "Was
that what you were told? I don't wonder you're
angry. The books are in bad shape, and as some
are interesting it's a pity. I told Miss Hatchard
they were suffering from dampness and lack of
air ; and I brought her here to show her how easily
the place could be ventilated. I also told her you
ought to have some one to help you do the dust-
ing and airing. If you were given a wrong ver-
sion of what I said I'm sorry; but I'm so fond
of old books that I'd rather see them made into
a bonfire than left to moulder away like these."
Charity felt her sobs rising and tried to stifle
them in words. "I don't care what you say you
told her. All I know is she thinks it's all my
fault, and I'm going to lose my job, and I wanted
it more'n anyone in the village, because I haven't
got anybody belonging to me, the way other folks
have. All I wanted was to put aside money enough
to get away from here sometime. D'you suppose
if it hadn't been for that I'd have kept on sitting
day after day in this old vault?"
Of this appeal her hearer took up only the last
question. "It is an old vault; but need it be?
That's the point. And it's my putting the ques-
tion to my cousin that seems to have been the
cause of the trouble/' His glance explored the
melancholy penumbra of the long narrow room,
resting on the blotched walls, the discoloured rows
of books, and the stern rosewood desk surmounted
by the portrait of the young Honorius. "Of course
it's a bad job to do anything with a building jammed
against a hill like this ridiculous mausoleum: you
couldn't get a good draught through it without
blowing a hole in the mountain. But it can be
ventilated after a fashion, and the sun can be let
in : I'll show you how if you like. . . ." The archi-
tect's passion for improvement had already made
him lose sight of her grievance, and he lifted his
stick instructively toward the cornice. But her
silence seemed to tell him that she took no in-
terest in the ventilation of the library, and turning
back to her abruptly he held out both hands. "Look
here you don't mean what you said? You don't
really think I'd do anything to hurt you?"
A new note in his voice disarmed her: no one
had ever spoken to her in that tone.
"Oh, what did you do it for then?" she wailed.
He had her hands in his, and she was feeling the
smooth touch that she had imagined the day be-
fore on the hillside.
He pressed her hands lightly and let them go.
"Why, to make things pleasanter for you here ; and
better for the books. I'm sorry if my cousin
twisted around what I said. She's excitable, and
she lives on trifles: I ought to have remembered
that. Don't punish me by letting her think you
take her seriously."
It was wonderful to hear him speak of Miss
Hat chard as if she were a querulous baby: in spite
of his shyness he had the air of power that the ex-
perience of cities probably gave. It was the fact
of having lived in Nettleton that made lawyer
Royall, in spite of his infirmities, the strongest man
in North Dormer; and Charity was sure that this
young man had lived in bigger places than Nettle-
She felt that if she kept up her denunciatory tone
he would secretly class her with Miss Hatchard;
and the thought made her suddenly simple.
"It don't matter to Miss Hatchard how I take
her. Mr. Royall says she's going to get a trained
librarian; and I'd sooner resign than have the vil
lage say she sent me away."
"Naturally you would. But I'm sure she doesn't
mean to send you away. At any rate, won't you
give me the chance to find out first and let you
know? It will be time enough to resign if I'm
Her pride flamed into her cheeks at the suggestion
of his intervening. "I don't want anybody should
coax her to keep me if I don't suit."
He coloured too. "I give you my word I won't
do that. Only wait till tomorrow, will you ?" He
looked straight into her eyes with his shy grey
glance. "You can trust me, you know you really
All the old frozen woes seemed to melt in her,
and she murmured awkwardly, looking away from
him: "Oh, I'll wait."
THERE had never been such a June in Eagle
County. Usually it was a month of moods,
with abrupt alternations of belated frost and mid-
summer heat; this year, day followed day in a
sequence of temperate beauty. Every morning
a breeze blew steadily from the hills. Toward
noon it built up great canopies of white cloud that
threw a cool shadow over fields and woods; then
before sunset the clouds dissolved again, and the
western light rained its unobstructed brightness
on the valley.
On such an afternoon Charity Royall lay on a
ridge above a sunlit hollow, her face pressed to the
earth and the warm currents of the grass running
through her. Directly in her line of vision a black-
berry branch laid its frail white flowers and blue-
green leaves against the sky. Just beyond, a tuft
of sweet-fern uncurled between the beaded shoots
of the grass, and a small yellow butterfly vibrated
over them like a fleck of sunshine. This was all
she saw; but she felt, above her and about
the strong growth of the beeches clothing the ridge,
the rounding of pale green cones on countless
spruce-branches, the push of myriads of sweet-fern
fronds in the cracks of the stony slope below the
wood, and the crowding shoots of meadowsweet
and yellow flags in the pasture beyond. All this
bubbling of sap and slipping of sheaths and burst-
ing of calyxes was carried to her on mingled cur-
rents of fragrance. Every leaf and bud and blade
seemed to contribute its exhalation to the pervad-
ing sweetness in which the pungency of pine-sap
prevailed over the spice of thyme and the subtle
perfume of fern, and all were merged in a moist
earth-smell that was like the breath of some huge
Charity had lain there a long time, passive and
sun-warmed as the slope on which she lay, when
there came between her eyes and the dancing but-
terfly the sight of a man's foot in a large worn
boot covered with red mud.
"Oh, don't!" she exclaimed, raising herself on
her elbow and stretching out a warning hand.
"Don't what?" a hoarse voice asked above her
"Don't stamp on those bramble flowers, you dolt !"
she retorted, springing to her knees. The foot
paused and then descended clumsily on the frail
branch, and raising her eyes she saw above her the
bewildered face of a slouching man with a thin
sunburnt beard, and white arms showing through
his ragged shirt.
"Don't you ever see anything, Lift Hyatt?" she
assailed him, as he stood before her with the look
of a man who has stirred up a wasp's nest.
He grinned. '"I seen you ! That's what I come
"Down from where?" she questioned, stooping
to gather up the petals his foot had scattered.
He jerked his thumb toward the heights. "Been
cutting down trees for Dan Targatt."
Charity sank back on her heels and looked at
him musingly. She was not in the least afraid of
poor Liff Hyatt, though he "came from the Moun-
tain," and some of the girls ran when they saw
him. Among the more reasonable he passed for
a harmless creature, a sort of link between the
mountain and civilized folk, who occasionally came
down and did a little wood-cutting for a farmer
when hands were short. Besides, she knew the
Mountain people would never hurt her: Lift him-
self had told her so once when she was a little
girl, and had met him one day at the edge of
lawyer Royall's pasture. "They won't any of 'em
touch you up there, fever you was to come
up. ... But I don't s'pose you will," he had added
philosophically, looking at her new shoes, and
at the red ribbon that Mrs. Royall had tied in her
Charity had, in truth, never felt any desire to
visit her birthplace. She did not care to have
it known that she was of the Mountain, and was
shy of being seen in talk with Liff Hyatt. But
today she was not sorry to have him appear. A
great many things had happened to her since the
day when young Lucius Harney had entered the
doors of the Hatchard Memorial, but none, perhaps,
so unforeseen as the fact of her suddenly finding
it a convenience to be on good terms with Liff
Hyatt. She continued to look up curiously at his
freckled weather-beaten face, with feverish hol-
lows below the cheekbones and the pale yellow eyes
of a harmless animal. "I wonder if he's re-
lated to me?" she thought, with a shiver of dis-
"Is there any folks living in the brown house
by the swamp, up under Porcupine?" she presently
asked in an indifferent tone.
Liff Hyatt, for a while, considered her with sur-
prise; then he scratched his head and shifted his
weight from one tattered sole to the other.
"There's always the same folks in the brown
house," he said with his vague grin.
"They're from up your way, ain't they?"
"Their name's the same as mine," he rejoined
Charity still held him with resolute eyes. "See
here, I want to go there some day and take a
gentleman with me that's boarding with us. He's
up in these parts drawing pictures."
She did not offer to explain this statement. It
was too far beyond Liff Hyatt's limitations for
the attempt to be worth making. "He wants to
see the brown house, and go all over it," she pur-
Liff was still running his fingers perplexedly
through his shock of straw-colored hair. "Is it a
fellow from the city?" he asked.
"Yes. He draws pictures of things. He's down
there now drawing the Bonner house." She
pointed to a chimney just visible over the dip of
the pasture below the wood.
"The Bonner house?" Lift echoed incredulously.
"Yes. You won't understand and it don't mat-
ter. All I say is: he's going to the Hyatts' in a
day or two."
Liff looked more and more perplexed. "Bash is
ugly sometimes in the afternoons."
"I know. But I guess he won't trouble me."
She threw her head back, her eyes full on Hyatt's.
"I'm coming too: you tell him."
"They won't none of them trouble you, the
Hyatts won't. What d'you want a take a stranger
with you, though?"
"I've told you, haven't I? You've got to tell
He looked away at the blue mountains on the
horizon; then his gaze dropped to the chimney-top
below the pasture.
"He's down there now?"
He shifted his weight again, crossed his arms,
and continued to survey the distant landscape.
"Well, so long," he said at last, inconclusively ; and
turning away he shambled up the hillside. From
the ledge above her, he paused to call down: "I
wouldn't go there a Sunday"; then he clambered
on till the trees closed in on him. Presently, from
high overhead, Charity heard the ring of his axe.
She lay on the warm ridge, thinking of many
things that the woodsman's appearance had stirred
up in her. She knew nothing of her early life, and
had never felt any curiosity about it: only a sul-
len reluctance to explore the corner of her memory
where certain blurred images lingered. But all
that had happened to her within the last few weeks
had stirred her to the sleeping depths. She had
become absorbingly interesting to herself, and every-
thing that had to do with her past was illuminated
by this sudden curiosity.
She hated more than ever the fact of coming
from the Mountain; but it was no longer indif-
ferent to her. Everything that in any way af-
fected her was alive and vivid : even the hateful
things had grown interesting because they were
a part of herself.
"I wonder if LifT Hyatt knows who my mother
was?" she mused; and it filled her with a tremor
of surprise to think that some woman who was
once young and slight, with quick motions of the
blood like hers, had carried her in her breast, and
watched her sleeping. She had always thought of
her mother as so long dead as to be no more than
a nameless pinch of earth; but now it occurred to
her that the once-young woman might be alive,
and wrinkled and elf -locked like the woman she
had sometimes seen in the door of the brown house
that Lucius Harney wanted to draw.
The thought brought her back to the central
point in her mind, and she strayed away from the
conjectures roused by Lift Hyatt's presence. Spec-
ulations concerning the past could not hold her
long when the present was so rich, the future so
rosy, and when Lucius Harney, a stone's throw
away, was bending over his sketch-book, frowning,
calculating, measuring, and then throwing his head
back with the sudden smile that had shed its bright-,
ness over everything.
She scrambled to her feet, but as she did so she
saw him coming up the pasture and dropped down
on the grass to wait. When he was drawing and
measuring one of "his houses/' as she called them,
she often strayed away by herself into the woods
or up the hillside. It was partly from shyness that
she did so: from a sense of inadequacy that came
to her most painfully when her companion, ab-
sorbed in his job, forgot her ignorance and her
inability to follow his least allusion, and plunged
into a monologue on art and life. To avoid the
awkwardness of listening with a blank face, and
also to escape the surprised stare of the inhabitants
of the houses before which he would abruptly pull
up their horse and open his sketch-book, she slipped
away to some spot from which, without being seen,
she could watch him at work, or at least look down
on the house he was drawing. She had not been
displeased, at first, to have it known to North Dor-
mer and the neighborhood that she was driving
Miss Hatchard's cousin about the country in the
buggy he had hired of lawyer Royall. She had al-
ways kept to herself, contemptuously aloof from
village love-making, without exactly knowing
whether her fierce pride was due to the sense of
her tainted origin, or whether she was reserving
herself for a more brilliant fate. Sometimes she
envied the other girls their sentimental preoccupa-
tions, their long hours of inarticulate philandering
with one of the few youths who still lingered in
the village; but when she pictured herself curling
her hair or putting a new ribbon on her hat for
Ben Fry or one of the Sollas boys the fever dropped
and she relapsed into indifference.
Now she knew the meaning of her disdains and
reluctances. She had learned what she was worth
when Lucius Harney, looking at her for the first
time, had lost the thread of his speech, and leaned
reddening on the edge of her desk. But another
kind of shyness had been born in her: a terror of
exposing to vulgar perils the sacred treasure of her
happiness. She was not sorry to have the neigh-
bors suspect her of "going with" a young man from
the city; but she did not want it known to all the
countryside how many hours of the long June
days she spent with him. What she most feared
was that the inevitable comments should reach Mr.
Royall. Charity was instinctively aware that few
things concerning her escaped the eyes of the silent
man under whose roof she lived; and in spite of
the latitude which North Dormer accorded to court-
ing couples she had always felt that, on the day
when she showed too open a preference, Mr. Royall
might, as she phrased it, make her "pay for it."
How, she did not know; and her fear was the
greater because it was undefinable. If she had been
accepting the attentions of one of the village youths
she would have been less apprehensive : Mr. Royall
could not prevent her marrying when she chose to.
But everybody knew that "going with a city fellow"
was a different and less straightforward affair: al-
most every village could show a victim of the peril-
ous venture. And her dread of Mr. Royall's in-
tervention gave a sharpened joy to the hours she
spent with young Harney, and made her, at the
same time, shy of being too generally seen with him.
As he approached she rose to her knees, stretch-
ing her arms above her head with the indolent ges-
ture that was her way of expressing a profound
"I'm going to take you to that house up under
Porcupine," she announced.
"What house? Oh, yes; that ramshackle place
near the swamp, with the gipsy-looking people hang-
ing about. It's curious that a house with traces
of real architecture should have been built in such
a place. But the people were a sulky-looking lot
do you suppose they'll let us in?"
"They'll do whatever I tell them," she said with
He threw himself down beside her. "Will they ?"
he rejoined with a smile. "Well, I should like
to see what's left inside the house. And I should
like to have a talk with the people. Who was it
who was telling me the other day that they had
come down from the Mountain?"
Charity shot a sideward look at him. It was
the first time he had spoken of the Mountain ex-
cept as a feature of the landscape. What else did
he know about it, and about her relation to it?
Her heart began to beat with the fierce impulse
of resistance which she instinctively opposed to
every imagined slight.
"The Mountain? I ain't afraid of the Moun-
Her tone of defiance seemed to escape him. He
lay breast-down on the grass, breaking off sprigs
of thyme and pressing them against his lips. Far
off, above the folds of the nearer hills, the Moun-
tain thrust itself up menacingly against a yellow
"I must go up there some day: I want to see
it," he continued.
Her heart-beats slackened and she turned again
to examine his profile. It was innocent of all un-
"What'd you want to go up the Mountain for?"
"Why, it must be rather a curious place. There's
a queer colony up there, you know: sort of out-
laws, a little independent kingdom. Of course
you've heard them spoken of; but I'm told they
have nothing to do with the people in the valleys
rather look down on them, in fact. I suppose
they're rough customers; but they must have a
good deal of character."
She did not quite know what he meant by hav-
ing a good deal of character; but his tone was ex-
pressive of admiration, and deepened her dawning
curiosity. It struck her now as strange that she
knew so little about the Mountain. She had never
asked, and no one had ever offered to enlighten
her. North Dormer took the Mountain for granted,
and implied its disparagement by an intonation
rather than by explicit criticism.
"It's queer, you know," he continued, "that, just
over there, on top of that hill, there should be a
handful of people who don't give a damn for any-
The words thrilled her. They seemed the clue
to her own revolts and defiances, and she longed
to have him tell her more.
"I don't know much about them. Have they al-
ways been there?"
"Nobody seems to know exactly how long. Down
at Creston they told me that the first colonists are
supposed to have been men who worked on the
railway that was built forty or fifty years ago
between Springfield and Nettleton. Some of them
took to drink, or got into trouble with the police,
and went off disappeared into the woods. A year
or two later there was a report that they were
living up on the Mountain. Then I suppose others
joined them and children were born. Now they
say there are over a hundred people up there. They
seem to be quite outside the jurisdiction of the val-
leys. No school, no church and no sheriff ever
goes up to see what they're about. But don't people
ever talk of them at North Dormer?"
"I don't know. They say they're bad."
He laughed. "Do they? We'll go and see, shall
She flushed at the suggestion, and turned her
face to his. "You never heard, I suppose I come
from there. They brought me down when I was
"You?" He raised himself on his elbow, look-
ing at her with sudden interest. "You're from the
Mountain? How curious! I suppose that's why
you're so different. . . ."
Her happy blood bathed her to the forehead. He
was praising her and praising her because she came
from the Mountain!
"Am I ... different?" she triumphed, with af-
"Oh, awfully!" He picked up her hand and
laid a kiss on the sunburnt knuckles.
"Come," he said, "let's be off." He stood up and
shook the grass from his loose grey clothes. "What
a good day ! Where are you going to take me to-
THAT evening after supper Charity sat alone
in the kitchen and listened to Mr. Royall
and young Harney talking in the porch.
She had remained indoors after the table had
been cleared and old Verena had hobbled up to bed.
The kitchen window was open, and Charity seated
herself near it, her idle hands on her knee. The
evening was cool and still. Beyond the black hills
an amber west passed into pale green, and then
to a deep blue in which a great star hung. The soft
hoot of a little owl came through the dusk, and be-
tween its calls the men's voices rose and fell.
Mr. Royall's was full of a sonorous satisfaction.
It was a long time since he had had anyone of
Lucius Harney's quality to talk to : Charity divined
that the young man symbolized all his ruined and
unforgotten past. When Miss Hatchard had been
called to Springfield by the illness of a widowed
sister, and young Harney, by that time seriously
embarked on his task of drawing and measuring all
the old houses between Nettleton and the New
Hampshire border, had suggested the possibility of
boarding at the red house in his cousin's absence,
Charity had trembled lest Mr. Roy all should re-
fuse. There had been no question of lodging the
young man: there was no room for him. But it
appeared that he could still live at Miss Hatchard's
if Mr. Royall would let him take his meals at the
red house; and after a day's deliberation Mr. Royall
Charity suspected him of being glad of the chance
to make a little money. He had the reputation of
being an avaricious man ; but she was beginning to
think he was probably poorer than people knew.
His practice had become little more than a vague
legend, revived only at lengthening intervals by a
summons to Hepburn or Nettleton ; and he appeared
to depend for his living mainly on the scant produce
of his farm, and on the commissions received from
the few insurance agencies that he represented in
the neighbourhood. At any rate, he had been prompt
in accepting Harney's offer to hire the buggy at a
dollar and a half a day; and his satisfaction with
the bargain had manifested itself, unexpectedly
enough, at the end of the first week, by his tossing
a ten-dollar bill into Charity's lap as she sat one
day retrimming her old hat.
"Here go get yourself a Sunday bonnet that'll
make all the other girls mad," he said, looking at
her with a sheepish twinkle in his deep-set eyes;
and she immediately guessed that the unwonted
present the only gift of money she had ever re-
ceived from him represented Harney's first pay-
But the young man's coming had brought Mr.
Royall other than pecuniary benefit. It gave him,
for the first time in years, a man's companionship.
Charity had only a dim understanding of her guard-
ian's needs; but she knew he felt himself above
the people among whom he lived, and she saw that
Lucius Harney thought him so. She was surprised
to find how well he seemed to talk now that he
had a listener who understood him; and she was
equally struck by young Harney's friendly defer-
Their conversation was mostly about politics, and
beyond her range; but tonight it had a peculiar
interest for her, for they had begun to speak of
the Mountain. She drew back a little, lest they
should see she was in hearing.
"The Mountain? The Mountain?" she heard
Mr. Royall say. "Why, the Mountain's a blot
that's what it is, sir, a blot. That scum up there
ought to have been run in long ago and would
have, if the people down here hadn't been clean
scared of them. The Mountain belongs to this
township, and it's North Dormer's fault if there's
a gang of thieves and outlaws living over there, in
sight of us, defying the laws of their country.
Why, there ain't a sheriff or a tax-collector or a
coroner 'd durst go up there. When they hear
of trouble on the Mountain the selectmen look
the other way, and pass an appropriation to beautify
the town pump. The only man that ever goes up
is the minister, and he goes because they send down
and get him whenever there's any of them dies.
They think a lot of Christian burial on the Moun-
tain but I never heard of their having the min-
ister up to marry them. And they never trouble
the Justice of the Peace either. They just herd
together like the heathen."
He went on, explaining in somewhat technical
language how the little colony of squatters had
contrived to keep the law at bay, and Charity, with
burning eagerness, awaited young Harney's com-
ment; but the young man seemed more concerned
to hear Mr. Royall's views than to express his
"I suppose you've never been up there yourself ?"
he presently asked.
"Yes, I have," said Mr. Royall with a contemp-
tuous laugh. "The wiseacres down here told me
I'd be done for before I got back; but nobody lifted
a finger to hurt me. And I'd just had one of their
gang sent up for seven years too."
"You went up after that?"
"Yes, sir: right after it. The fellow came down
to Nettleton and ran amuck, the way they some-
times do. After they've done a wood-cutting job
they come down and blow the money in; and this
man ended up with manslaughter. I got him con-
victed, though they were scared of the Mountain
even at Nettleton ; and then a queer thing happened.
The fellow sent for me to go and see him in gaol.
I went, and this is what he says : 'The fool that
defended me is a chicken-livered son of a
and all the rest of it/ he says. 'I've got a job to
be done for me up on the Mountain, and you're
the only man I seen in court that looks as if he'd
do it/ He told me he had a child up there or
thought he had a little girl; and he wanted her
brought down and reared like a Christian. I was
sorry for the fellow, so I went up and got the
child." He paused, and Charity listened with a
throbbing heart. "That's the only time I ever went
up the Mountain," he concluded.
There was a moment's silence; then Harney
spoke. "And the child had she no mother?"
"Oh, yes : there was a mother. But she was
glad enough to have her go. She'd have given
her to anybody. They ain't half human up there.
I guess the mother's dead by now, with the life
she was leading. Anyhow, I've never heard of her
from that day to this."
"My God, how ghastly," Harney murmured ; and
Charity, choking with humiliation, sprang to her
feet and ran upstairs. She knew at last : knew that
she was the child of a drunken convict and of a
mother who wasn't "half human," and was glad
to have her go; and she had heard this history of
her origin related to the one being in whose eyes
she longed to appear superior to the people about
her! She had noticed that Mr. Royall had not
named her, had even avoided any allusion that
might identify her with the child he had brought
down from the Mountain; and she knew it was
out of regard for her that he had kept silent. But
of what use was his discretion, since only that
afternoon, misled by Harney's interest in the out-
law colony, she had boasted to him of coming from
the Mountain? Now every word that had been
spoken showed her how such an origin must widen
the distance between them.
During his ten days' sojourn at North Dormer
Lucius Harney had not spoken a word of love to
her. He had intervened in her behalf with his
cousin, and had convinced Miss Hatchard of her
merits as a librarian; but that was a simple act of
justice, since it was by his own fault that those
merits had been questioned. He had asked her
to drive him about the country when he hired law-
yer Royall's buggy to go on his sketching expedi-
tions; but that too was natural enough, since he
was unfamiliar with the region. Lastly, when his
cousin was called to Springfield, he had begged Mr.
Royall to receive him as a boarder; but where else
in North Dormer could he have boarded? Not
with Carrick Fry, whose wife was paralysed, and
whose large family crowded his table to over-flow-
ing; not with the Targatts, who lived a mile up
the road, nor with poor old Mrs. Hawes, who, since
her eldest daughter had deserted her, barely had
the strength to cook her own meals while Ally
picked up her living as a seamstress. Mr. Royall's
was the only house where the young man could
have been offered a decent hospitality. There had
been nothing, therefore, in the outward course of
events to raise in Charity's breast the hopes with
which it trembled. But beneath the visible incidents
resulting from Lucius Harney's arrival there ran
an undercurrent as mysterious and potent as the
influence that makes the forest break into leaf be-
for the ice is off the pools.
The business on which Harney had come was au-
thentic; Charity had seen the letter from a New
York publisher commissioning him to make a study
of the eighteenth century houses in the less familiar
districts of New England. But incomprehensible as
the whole affair was to her, and hard as she found
it to understand why he paused enchanted before
certain neglected and paintless houses, while others,
refurbished and "improved" by the local builder,
did not arrest a glance, she could not but suspect
that Eagle County was less rich in architecture than
he averred, and that the duration of his stay (which
he had fixed at a month) was not unconnected with
the look in his eyes when he had first paused be-
fore her in the library. Everything that had fol-
lowed seemed to have grown out of that look: his
way of speaking to her, his quickness in catching
her meaning, his evident eagerness to prolong their
excursions and to seize on every chance of being
The signs of his liking were manifest enough;
but it was hard to guess how much they meant, be-
cause his manner was so different from anything
North Dormer had ever shown her. He was at
once simpler and more deferential than any one
she had known; and sometimes it was just when
he was simplest that she most felt the distance be-
tween them. Education and opportunity had di-
vided them by a width that no effort of hers could
bridge, and even when his youth and his admira-
tion brought him nearest, some chance word, some
unconscious allusion, seemed to thrust her back
across the gulf.
Never had it yawned so wide as when she fled
up to her room carrying with her the echo of Mr.
Royall's tale. Her first confused thought was the
prayer that she might never see young Harney
again. It was too bitter to picture him as the de-
tached impartial listener to such a story. "I wish
he'd go away : I wish he'd go tomorrow, and never
come back !" she moaned to her pillow ; and far into
the night she lay there, in the disordered dress she
had forgotten to take off, her whole soul a tossing
misery on which her hopes and dreams spun about
like drowning straws.
Of all this tumult only a vague heart-soreness
was left when she opened her eyes the next morn-
ing. Her first thought was of the weather, for
Harney had asked her to take him to the brown
house under Porcupine, and then around by Ham-
blin; and as the trip was a long one they were to
start at nine. The sun rose without a cloud, and
earlier than usual she was in the kitchen, making
cheese sandwiches, decanting buttermilk into a bot-
tle, wrapping up slices of apple pie, and accusing
Verena of having given away a basket she needed,
which had always hung on a hook in the passage.
When she came out into the porch, in her pink
calico, which had run a little in the washing, but
was still bright enough to set off her dark tints,
she had such a triumphant sense of being a part of
the sunlight and the morning that the last trace of
her misery vanished. What did it matter where
she came from, or whose child she was, when love
was dancing in her veins, and down the road she
saw young Harney coming toward her?
Mr. Royall was in the porch too. He had said
nothing at breakfast, but when she came out in
her pink dress, the basket in her hand, he looked
at her with surprise. "Where you going to?" he
"Why Mr. Harney's starting earlier than usual
today," she answered.
"Mr. Harney, Mr. Harney? Ain't Mr. Harney
learned how to drive a horse yet?"
She made no answer, and he sat tilted back in
his chair, drumming on the rail of the porch. It
was the first time he had ever spoken of the young
man in that tone, and Charity felt a faint chill of
apprehension. After a moment he stood up and
walked away toward the bit of ground behind the
house, where the hired man was hoeing.
The air was cool and clear, with the autumnal
sparkle that a north wind brings to the hills in
early summer, and the night had been so still that
the dew hung on everything, not as a lingering
moisture, but in separate beads that glittered like
diamonds on the ferns and grasses. It was a long
drive to the foot of Porcupine : first across the val-
ley, with blue hills bounding the open slopes; then
down into the beech-woods, following the course
of the Creston, a brown brook leaping over velvet
ledges; then out again onto the farm-lands about
Creston Lake, and gradually up the ridges of the
Eagle Range. At last they reached the yoke of
the hills, and before them opened another valley,
green and wild, and beyond it more blue heights
eddying away to the sky like the waves of a re-
Harney tied the horse to a tree-stump, and they
unpacked their basket under an aged walnut with
a riven trunk out of which bumblebees darted.
The sun had grown hot, and behind them was the
noonday murmur of the forest. Summer insects
danced on the air, and a flock of white butterflies
fanned the mobile tips of the crimson fireweed. In
the valley below not a house was visible ; it seemed
as if Charity Royall and young Harney were the
only living beings in the great hollow of earth and
Charity's spirits flagged and disquieting thoughts
stole back on her. Young Harney had grown silent,
and as he lay beside her, his arms under his head, his
eyes on the network of leaves above him, she won-
dered if he were musing on what Mr. Royall had
told him, and if it had really debased her in his
thoughts. She wished he had not asked her to take
him that day to the brown house ; she did not want
him to see the people she came from while the
story of her birth was fresh in his mind. More
than once she had been on the point of suggesting
that they should follow the ridge and drive straight
to Hamblin, where there was a little deserted house
he wanted to see; but shyness and pride held her
back. "He'd better know what kind of folks I
belong to," she said to herself, with a somewhat
forced defiance; for in reality it was shame that
kept her silent.
Suddenly she lifted her hand and pointed to the
sky. "There's a storm coming up."
He followed her glance and smiled. "Is it that
scrap of cloud among the pines that frightens
"It's over the Mountain; and a cloud over the
Mountain always means trouble."
"Oh, I don't believe half the bad things you all
say of the Mountain ! But anyhow, we'll get down
to the brown house before the rain comes/'
He was not far wrong, for only a few isolated
drops had fallen when they turned into the road
under the shaggy flank of Porcupine, and came
upon the brown house. It stood alone beside a
swamp bordered with alder thickets and tall bul-
rushes. Not another dwelling was in sight, and it
was hard to guess what motive could have actuated
the early settler who had made his home in so un-
friendly a spot.
Charity had picked up enough of her companion's
erudition to understand what had attracted him to
the house. She noticed the fan-shaped tracery of
the broken light above the door, the flutings of
the paintless pilasters at the corners, and the round
window set in the gable; and she knew that, for
reasons that still escaped her, these were things
to be admired and recorded. Still, they had seen
other houses far more "typical" (the word was
Harney's) ; and as he threw the reins on the horse's
neck he said with a slight shiver of repugnance:
"We won't stay long."
Against the restless alders turning their white lin-
ing to the storm the house looked singularly deso-
late. The paint was almost gone from the clap-
boards, the window-panes were broken and patched
with rags, and the garden was a poisonous tangle
of nettles, burdocks and tall swamp-weeds ov<
which big blue-bottles hummed.
At the sound of wheels a child with a tow-head
and pale eyes like Lift Hyatt's peered over the fence
and then slipped away behind an out-house. Har-
ney jumped down and helped Charity out; and as
he did so the rain broke on them. It came slant-
wise, on a furious gale, laying shrubs and young
trees flat, tearing off their leaves like an autumn
storm, turning the road into a river, and making
hissing pools of every hollow. Thunder rolled in-
cessantly through the roar of the rain, and a strange
glitter of light ran along the ground under the
"Lucky we're here after all," Harney laughed.
He fastened the horse under a half -roofless shed,
and wrapping Charity in his coat ran with her to
the house. The boy had not reappeared, and as
there was no response to their knocks Harney turned
the door-handle and they went in.
There were three people in the kitchen to which
the door admitted them. An old woman with a
handkerchief over her head was sitting by the win-
dow. She held a sickly-looking kitten on her knees,
and whenever it jumped down and tried to limp
away she stooped and lifted it back without any
change of her aged, unnoticing face. Another
\voman, the unkempt creature that Charity had once
noticed in driving by, stood leaning against the win-
dow-frame and stared at them; and near the stove
an unshaved man in a tattered shirt sat on a barrel
The place was bare and miserable and the air
heavy with the smell of dirt and stale tobacco.
Charity's heart sank. Old derided tales of the
Mountain people came back to her, and the woman's
stare was so disconcerting, and the face of the sleep-
ing man so sodden and bestial, that her disgust was
tinged with a vague dread. She was not afraid
for herself ; she knew the Hyatts would not be likely
to trouble her ; but she was not sure how they would
treat a "city fellow."
Lucius Harney would certainly have laughed at
her fears. He glanced about the room, uttered a
general "How are you?" to which no one responded,
and then asked the younger woman if they might
take shelter till the storm was over.
She turned her eyes away from him and looked
"You're the girl from Royall's, ain't you?"
The colour rose in Charity's face. "I'm Charity
Royall," she said, as if asserting her right to the
name in the very place where it might have been
most open to question.
The woman did not seem to notice. "You kin
stay," she merely said; then she turned away and
stooped over a dish in which she was stirring some-
Harney and Charity sat down on a bench made
of a board resting on two starch boxes. They faced
a door hanging on a broken hinge, and through
the crack they saw the eyes of the tow-headed boy
and of a pale little girl with a scar across her
cheek. Charity smiled, and signed to the children
to come in; but as soon as they saw they were dis-
covered they slipped away on bare feet. It occurred
to her that they were afraid of rousing the sleeping
man; and probably the woman shared their fear,
for she moved about as noiselessly and avoided go-
ing near the stove.
The rain continued to beat against the house, and
in one or two places it sent a stream through the
patched panes and ran into pools on the floor.
Every now and then the kitten mewed and struggled
down, and the old woman stooped and caught it,
holding it tight in her bony hands ; and once or twice
the man on the barrel half woke, changed his posi-
tion and dozed again, his head falling forward on
his hairy breast. As the minutes passed, and the
rain still streamed against the windows, a loathing
of the place and the people came over Charity. The
sight of the weak-minded old woman, of the cowed
children, and the ragged man sleeping off his liquor,
made the setting of her own life seem a vision of
peace and plenty. She thought of the kitchen at
Mr. Royall's, with its scrubbed floor and dresser
full of china, and the peculiar smell of yeast and
coffee and soft-soap that she had always hated, but
that now seemed the very symbol of household or-
der. She saw Mr. Royall's room, with the high-
backed horsehair chair, the faded rag carpet, the
row of books on a shelf, the engraving of "The
Surrender of Burgoyne" over the stove, and the
mat with a brown and white spaniel in a moss-
green border. And then her mind travelled to
Miss Hatchard's house, where all was freshness,
purity and fragrance, and compared to which the
red house had always seemed so poor and plain.
"This is where I belong this is where I belong/'
she kept repeating to herself; but the words had
no meaning for her. Every instinct and habit made
her a stranger among these poor swamp-people liv-
ing like vermin in their lair. With all her soul
she wished she had not yielded to Harney's curi-
osity, and brought him there.
The rain had drenched her, and she began to
shiver under the thin folds of her dress. The
younger woman must have noticed it, for she went
out of the room and came back with a broken tea-
cup which she offered to Charity. It was half full
of whiskey, and Charity shook her head; but Har-
ney took the cup and put his lips to it. When he
had set it down Charity saw him feel in his pocket
and draw out a dollar; he hesitated a moment, and
then put it back, and she guessed that he did not
wish her to see him offering money to people she
had spoken of as being her kin.
The sleeping man stirred, lifted his head and
opened his eyes. They rested vacantly for a mo-
ment on Charity and Harney, and then closed again,
and his head drooped; but a look of anxiety came
into the woman's face. She glanced out of the
window and then came up to Harney. "I guess
you better go along now," she said. The young
man understood and got to his feet. "Thank you,"
he said, holding out his hand. She seemed not to
notice the gesture, and turned away as they opened
The rain was still coming down, but they hardly
noticed it : the pure air was like balm in their faces.
The clouds were rising and breaking, and between
their edges the light streamed down from remote
blue hollows. Harney untied the horse, and they
drove off through the diminishing rain, which was
already beaded with sunlight.
For a while Charity was silent, and her com-
panion did not speak. She looked timidly at his
profile: it was graver than usual, as though he too
were oppressed by what they had seen. Then she
broke out abruptly: "Those people back there are
the kind of folks I come from. They may be my
relations, for all I know." She did not want him to
think that she regretted having told him her story.
"Poor creatures/' he rejoined. "I wonder why
they came down to that fever-hole."
She laughed ironically. "To better themselves!
It's worse up on the Mountain. Bash Hyatt mar-
ried the daughter of the farmer that used to own
the brown house. That was him by the stove, I
Harney seemed to find nothing to say and she
went on: "I saw you take out a dollar to give
to that poor woman. Why did you put it back ?"
He reddened, and leaned forward to flick a
swamp-fly from the horse's neck. "I wasn't
"Was it because you knew they were my folks,
and thought I'd be ashamed to see you give them
He turned to her with eyes full of reproach.
"Oh, Charity " It was the first time he had
ever called her by her name. Her misery welled
"I ain't I ain't ashamed. They're my people,
and I ain't ashamed of them," she sobbed.
"My dear . . ." he murmured, putting his arm
about her ; and she leaned against him and wept out
It was too late to go around to Hamblin, and
all the stars were out in a clear sky when they
reached the North Dormer valley and drove up to
the red house.
SINCE her reinstatement in Miss Hatchard's
favour Charity had not dared to curtail by
a moment her hours of attendance at the library.
She even made a point of arriving before the
time, and showed a laudable indignation when the
youngest Targatt girl, who had been engaged to
help in the cleaning and rearranging of the books,
came trailing in late and neglected her task to peer
through the window at the Sollas boy. Neverthe-
less, "library days" seemed more than ever irksome
to Charity after her vivid hours of liberty; and she
would have found it hard to set a good example
to her subordinate if Lucius Harney had not been
commissioned, before Miss Hatchard's departure,
to examine with the local carpenter the best means
of ventilating the "Memorial."
He was careful to prosecute this inquiry on the
days when the library was open to the public; and
Charity was therefore sure of spending part of the
afternoon in his company. The Targatt girl's pres-
ence, and the risk of being interrupted by some
passer-by suddenly smitten with a thirst for letters,
restricted their intercourse to the exchange of com-
monplaces; but there was a fascination to Charity
in the contrast between these public civilities and
their secret intimacy.
The day after their drive to the brown house
was "library day," and she sat at her desk work-
ing at the revised catalogue, while the Targatt girl,
one eye on the window, chanted out the titles of
a pile of books. Charity's thoughts were far away,
in the dismal house by the swamp, and under the
twilight sky during the long drive home, when
Lucius Harney had consoled her with endearing
words. That day, for the first time since he had
been boarding with them, he had failed to appear
as usual at the midday meal. No message had come
to explain his absence, and Mr. Royall, who was
more than usually taciturn, had betrayed no sur-
prise, and made no comment. In itself this in-
difference was not particularly significant, for Mr.
Royall, in common with most of his fellow-citizens,
had a way of accepting events passively, as if he
had long since come to the conclusion that no one
who lived in North Dormer could hope to modify
them. But to Charity, in the reaction from her
mood of passionate exaltation, there was something
disquieting in his silence. It was almost as if
Lucius Harney had never had a part in their lives :
Mr. Royall's imperturbable indifference seemed to
relegate him to the domain of unreality.
As she sat at work, she tried to shake off her
disappointment at Harney's non-appearing. Some
trifling incident had probably kept him from join-
ing them at midday; but she was sure he must be
eager to see her again, and that he would not want
to wait till they met at supper, between Mr. Royall
and Verena. She was wondering what his first
words would be, and trying to devise a way of get-
ting rid of the Targatt girl before he came, when
she heard steps outside, and he walked up the path
with Mr. Miles.
The clergyman from Hepburn seldom came to
North Dormer except when he drove over to of-
ficiate at the old white church which, by an un-
usual chance, happened to belong to the Episcopal
communion. He was a brisk affable man, eager
to make the most of the fact that a little nucleus of
"church-people'' had survived in the sectarian wil-
derness, and resolved to undermine the influence of
the ginger-bread-coloured Baptist chapel at the other
end of the village ; but he was kept busy by parochial
work at Hepburn, where there were paper-mills
and saloons, and it was not often that he could
spare time for North Dormer.
Charity, who went to the white church (like all
the best people in North Dormer), admired Mr.
Miles, and had even, during the memorable trip
to Nettleton, imagined herself married to a man
who had such a straight nose and such a beautiful
way of speaking, and who lived in a brown-stone
rectory covered with Virginia creeper. It had been
a shock to discover that the privilege was already
enjoyed by a lady with crimped hair and a large
baby; but the arrival of Lucius Harney had long
since banished Mr. Miles from Charity's dreams,
and as he walked up the path at Harney's side she
saw him as he really was: a fat middle-aged man
with a baldness showing under his clerical hat,
and spectacles on his Grecian nose. She wondered
what had called him to North Dormer on a week-
day, and felt a little hurt that Harney should have
brought him to the library.
It presently appeared that his presence there was
due to Miss Hatchard. He had been spending a
few days at Springfield, to fill a friend's pulpit,
and had been consulted by Miss Hatchard as to
young Harney's plan for ventilating the "Me-
morial." To lay hands on the Hatchard ark was
a grave matter, and Miss Hatchard, always full of
scruples, and of scruples about her scruples (it was
Harney's phrase), wished to have Mr. Miles's opin-
ion before deciding.
"I couldn't," Mr. Miles explained, "quite make
out from your cousin what changes you wanted to
make, and as the other trustees did not understand
either I thought I had better drive over and take
a look though I'm sure," he added, turning his
friendly spectacles on the young man, "that no one
could be more competent but of course this spot
has its peculiar sanctity!"
"I hope a little fresh air won't desecrate it," Har-
ney laughingly rejoined; and they walked to the
other end of the library while he set forth his idea
to the Rector.
Mr. Miles had greeted the two girls with his usual
friendliness, but Charity saw that he was occupied
with other things, and she presently became aware,
by the scraps of conversation drifting over to her,
that he was still under the charm of his visit to
Springfield, which appeared to have been full of
"Ah, the Coopersons . . . yes, you know them,
of course/' she heard. "That's a fine old house!
And Ned Cooperson has collected some really re-
markable impressionist pictures. . . ." The names
he cited were unknown to Charity. "Yes; yes; the
Schaefer quartette played at Lyric Hall on Satur-
day evening; and on Monday I had the privilege
of hearing them again at the Towers. Beautifully
done . . . Bach and Beethoven ... a lawn-party
first ... I saw Miss Balch several times, by the
way . . . looking extremely handsome. . . ."
Charity dropped her pencil and forgot to listen
to the Targatt girl's sing-song. Why had Mr.
Miles suddenly brought up Annabel Balch's name?
"Oh, really?" she heard Harney rejoin; and,
raising his stick, he pursued : "You see, my plan is
to move these shelves away, and open a round win-
dow in this wall, on the axis of the one under the
"I suppose she'll be coming up here later to stay
with Miss Hatchard?" Mr. Miles went on, follow-
ing on his train of thought; then, spinning about
and tilting his head back: "Yes, yes, I see I un-
derstand : that will give a draught without materi-
ally altering the look of things. I can see no ob-
The discussion went on for some minutes, and
gradually the two men moved back toward the
desk. Mr. Miles stopped again and looked thought-
fully at Charity. "Aren't you a little pale, my
dear? Not overworking? Mr. Harney tells me
you and Mamie are giving the library a thorough
overhauling." He was always careful to remember
his parishioners' Christian names, and at the right
moment he bent his benignant spectacles on the
Then he turned to Charity. "Don't take things
hard, my dear ; don't take things hard. Come down
and see Mrs. Miles and me some day at Hepburn,"
he said, pressing her hand and waving a farewell
to Mamie Targatt. He went out of the library,
and Harney followed him.
Charity thought she detected a look of constraint
in Harney's eyes. She fancied he did not want
to be alone with her; and with a sudden pang she
wondered if he repented the tender things he had
said to her the night before. His words had been
more fraternal than lover-like ; but she had lost their
exact sense in the caressing warmth of his voice.
He had made her feel that the fact of her being
a waif from the Mountain was only another reason
for holding her close and soothing her with con-
solatory murmurs; and when the drive was over,
and she got out of the buggy, tired, cold, and ach-
ing with emotion, she stepped as if the ground were
a sunlit wave and she the spray on its crest.
Why, then, had his manner suddenly changed,
and why did he leave the library with Mr. Miles?
Her restless imagination fastened on the name of
Annabel Balch : from the moment it had been men-
tioned she fancied that Harney's expression had
altered. Annabel Balch at a garden-party at Spring-
field, looking "extremely handsome" . . . perhaps
Mr. Miles had seen her there at the very moment
when Charity and Harney were sitting in the
Hyatts' hovel, between a drunkard and a half-witted
old woman ! Charity did not know exactly what a
garden-party was, but her glimpse of the flower-
edged lawns of Nettleton helped her to visualize
the scene, and envious recollections of the "old
things" which Miss Balch avowedly "wore out"
when she came to North Dormer made it only too
easy to picture her in her splendour. Charity un-
derstood what associations the name must have
called up, and felt the uselessness of struggling
against the unseen influences in Harney' s life.
When she came down from her room for supper
he was not there ; and while she waited in the porch
she recalled the tone in which Mr. Royall had com-
mented the day before on their early start. Mr.
Royall sat at her side, his chair tilted back, his
broad black boots with side-elastics resting against
the lower bar of the railings. His rumpled grey
hair stood up above his forehead like the crest of
an angry bird, and the leather-brown of his veined
cheeks was blotched with red. Charity knew that
those red spots were the signs of a coming ex-
Suddenly he said: "Where's supper? Has Ve-
rena Marsh slipped up again on her soda-biscuits?"
Charity threw a startled glance at him. "I pre-
sume she's waiting for Mr. Harney."
"Mr. Harney, is she ? She'd better dish up, then.
He ain't coming." He stood up, walked to the
door, and called out, in the pitch necessary to pene-
trate the old woman's tympanum : "Get along with
the supper, Verena."
Charity was trembling with apprehension. Some-
thing had happened she was sure of it now and
Mr. Royall knew what it was. But not for the
world would she have gratified him by showing her
anxiety. She took her usual place, and he seated
himself opposite, and poured out a strong cup of
tea before passing her the tea-pot. Verena brought
some scrambled eggs, and he piled his plate with
them. "Ain't you going to take any?" he asked.
Charity roused herself and began to eat.
The tone with which Mr. Royall had said "He's
not coming" seemed to her full of an ominous satis-
faction. She saw that he had suddenly begun to
hate Lucius Harney, and guessed herself to be the
cause of this change of feeling. But she had no
means of finding out whether some act of hostility
on his part had made the young man stay away,
or whether he simply wished to avoid seeing her
again after their drive back from the brown house.
She ate her supper with a studied show of indif-
ference, but she knew that Mr. Royall was watch-
ing her and that her agitation did not escape him.
After supper she went up to her room. She
heard Mr. Royall cross the passage, and presently
the sounds below her window showed that he had
returned to the porch. She seated herself on her
bed and began to struggle against the desire to go
down and ask him what had happened. "I'd rather
die than do it," she muttered to herself. With a
word he could have relieved her uncertainty: but
never would she gratify him by saying it.
She rose and leaned out of the window. The twi-
light had deepened into night, and she watched the
frail curve of the young moon dropping to the edge
of the hills. Through the darkness she saw one
or two figures moving down the road ; but the eve-
ning was too cold for loitering, and presently the
strollers disappeared. Lamps were beginning to
show here and there in the windows. A bar of
light brought out the whiteness of a clump of lilies
in the Hawes's yard : and farther down the street
Carrick Fry's Rochester lamp cast its bold illumi-
nation on the rustic flower-tub in the middle of his
For a long time she continued to lean in the
window. But a fever of unrest consumed her, and
finally she went downstairs, took her hat from its
hook, and swung out of the house. Mr. Royall sat
in the porch, Verena beside him, her old hands
crossed on her patched skirt. As Charity went
down the steps Mr. Royall called after her : "Where
you going?" She could easily have answered : "To
Orma's," r "Down to the Targatts'"; and either
answer might have been true, for she had no pur-
pose. But she swept on in silence, determined not
to recognize his right to question her.
At the gate she paused and looked up and down
the road. The darkness drew her, and she thought
of climbing the hill and plunging into the depths of
the larch-wood above the pasture. Then she glanced
irresolutely along the street, and as she did so a
gleam appeared through the spruces at Miss Hatch-
ard's gate. Lucius Harney was there, then he
had not gone down to Hepburn with Mr. Miles,
as she had at first imagined. But where had he
taken his evening meal, and what had caused him
to stay away from Mr. Royall's? The light was
positive proof of his presence, for Miss Hatchard's
servants were away on a holiday, and her farmer's
wife came only in the mornings, to make the young
man's bed and prepare his coffee. Beside that lamp
he was doubtless sitting at this moment. To know
the truth Charity had only to walk half the length
of the village, and knock at the lighted window. She
hesitated a minute or two longer, and then turned
toward Miss Hatchard's.
She walked quickly, straining her eyes to detect
anyone who might be coming along the street ; and
before reaching the Frys' she crossed over to avoid
the light from their window. Whenever she was
unhappy she felt herself at bay against a pitiless
world, and a kind of animal secretiveness possessed
her. But the street was empty, and she passed un-
noticed through the gate and up the path to the
house. Its white front glimmered indistinctly
through the trees, showing only one oblong of light
on the lower floor. She had supposed that the
lamp was in Miss Hatchard's sitting-room; but she
now saw that it shone through a window at the
farther corner of the house. She did not know the
room to which this window belonged, and she
paused under the trees, checked by a sense of
strangeness. Then she moved on, treading softly
on the short grass, and keeping so close to the house
that whoever was in the room, even if roused by
her approach, would not be able to see her.
The window opened on a narrow verandah with
a trellised arch. She leaned close to the trellis, and
parting the sprays of clematis that covered it looked
into a corner of the room. She saw the foot of
a mahogany bed, an engraving on the wall, a wash-
stand on which a towel had been tossed, and one
end of the green-covered table which held the lamp.
Half of the lamp-shade projected into her field of
vision, and just under it two smooth sunburnt
hands, one holding a pencil and the other a ruler,
were moving to and fro over a drawing-board.
Her heart jumped and then stood still. He was
there, a few feet away; and while her soul was
tossing on seas of woe he had been quietly sitting
at his drawing-board. The sight of those two
hands, moving with their usual skill and precision,
woke her out of her dream. Her eyes were opened
to the disproportion between what she had felt and
the cause of her agitation; and she was turning
away from the window when one hand abruptly
pushed aside the drawing-board and the other flung
down the pencil.
Charity had often noticed Harney's loving care
of his drawings, and the neatness and method with
which he carried on and concluded each task. The
impatient sweeping aside of the drawing-board
seemed to reveal a new mood. The gesture sug-
gested sudden discouragement, or distaste for his
work, and she wondered if he too were agitated by
secret perplexities. Her impulse of flight was
checked ; she stepped up on the verandah and looked
into the room.
Harney had put his elbows on the table and was
resting his chin on his locked hands. He had taken
off his coat and waistcoat, and unbuttoned the low
collar of his flannel shirt; she saw the vigorous
lines of his young throat, and the root of the mus-
cles where they joined the chest. He sat staring
straight ahead of him, a look of weariness and self-
disgust on his face : it was almost as if he had been
gazing at a distorted reflection of his own features.
For a moment Charity looked at him with a kind
of terror, as if he had been a stranger under fa-
miliar lineaments; then she glanced past him and
saw on the floor an open portmanteau half full of
clothes. She understood that he was preparing to
leave, and that he had probably decided to go with-
out seeing her. She saw that the decision, from
whatever cause it was taken, had disturbed him
deeply; and she immediately concluded that his
change of plan was due to some surreptitious in-
terference of Mr. Royall's. All her old resentments
and rebellions flamed up, confusedly mingled with
the yearning roused by Harney's nearness. Only
a few hours earlier she had felt secure in his com-
prehending pity; now she was flung back on her-
self, doubly alone after that moment of communion.
Harney was still unaware of her presence. He
sat without moving, moodily staring before him at
the same spot in the wall-paper. He had not even
had the energy to finish his packing, and his clothes
and papers lay on the floor about the portmanteau.
Presently he unlocked his clasped hands and stood
up; and Charity, drawing back hastily, sank down
on the step of the verandah. The night was so
dark that there was not much chance of his seeing
her unless he opened the window, and before that
she would have time to slip away and be lost in
the shadow of the trees. He stood for a minute
or two looking around the room with the same ex-
pression of self-disgust, as if he hated himself and
everything about him; then he sat down again at
the table, drew a few more strokes, and threw his
pencil aside. Finally he walked across the :5oor,
kicking the portmanteau out of his way, and lay
down on the bed, folding his arms under his head,
and staring up morosely at the ceiling. Just so,
Charity had seen him at her side, on the grass or
the pine-needles, his eyes fixed on the sky, and pleas-
ure flashing over his face like the flickers of sun
the branches shed on it. But now the face was so
changed that she hardly knew it; and grief at his
grief gathered in her throat, rose to her eyes and
She continued to crouch on the steps, holding her
breath and stiffening herself into complete immo-
bility. One motion of her hand, one tap on the
pane, and she could picture the sudden change in
his face. In every pulse of her rigid body she was
aware of the welcome his eyes and lips would give
her; but something kept her from moving. It was
not the fear of any sanction, human or heavenly;
she had never in her life been afraid. It was
simply that she had suddenly understood what
would happen if she went in. It was the thing
that did happen between young men and girls, and
that North Dormer ignored in public and snickered
over on the sly. It was what Miss Hatchard was
still ignorant of, but every girl of Charity's class
knew about before she left school. It was what
had happened to Ally Hawes's sister Julia, and had
ended in her going to Nettleton, and in people's
never mentioning her name.
It did not, of course, always end so sensationally ;
nor, perhaps, on the whole, so untragically. Charity
had always suspected that the shunned Julia's fate
might have its compensations. There were other
worse endings that the village knew of, mean, mis-
erable, unconf essed ; other lives that went on drear-
ily, without visible change, in the same cramped set-
ting of hypocrisy. But these were not the reasons
that held her back. Since the day before, she had
known exactly what she would feel if Harney
should take her in his arms: the melting of palm
into palm and mouth on mouth, and the long flame
burning her from head to foot. But mixed with
this feeling was another : the wondering pride in his
liking for her, the startled softness that his sym-
pathy had put into her heart. Sometimes, when
her youth flushed up in her, she had imagined yield-
ing like other girls to furtive caresses in the twi-
light; but she could not so cheapen herself to Har-
ney. She did not know why he was going; but
since he was going she felt she must do nothing to
deface the image of her that he carried away. If
he wanted her he must seek her: he must not be
surprised into taking her as girls like Julia Hawes
were taken. . . .
No sound came from the sleeping village, and
in the deep darkness of the garden she heard now
and then a secret rustle of branches, as though some
night-bird brushed them. Once a footfall passed the
gate, and she shrank back into her corner; but the
steps died away and left a profounder quiet. Her
eyes were still on Harney's tormented face : she felt
she could not move till he moved. But she was be-
ginning to grow numb from her constrained posi-
tion, and at times her thoughts were so indistinct
that she seemed to be held there only by a vague
weight of weariness.
A long time passed in this strange vigil. Harney
still lay on the bed, motionless and with fixed eyes,
as though following his vision to its bitter end. At
last he stirred and changed his attitude slightly, and
Charity's heart began to tremble. But he only flung
out his arms and sank back into his former posi-
tion. With a deep sigh he tossed the hair from
his forehead ; then his whole body relaxed, his head
turned sideways on the pillow, and she saw that
he had fallen asleep. The sweet expression came
back to his lips, and the haggardness faded from
his face, leaving it as fresh as a boy's.
She rose and crept away.
SHE had lost the sense of time, and did not
know how late it was till she came out into
the street and saw that all the windows were dark
between Miss Hatchard's and the Royall house.
As she passed from under the black pall of the
Norway spruces she fancied she saw two figures in
the shade about the duck-pond. She drew back and
watched; but nothing moved, and she had stared
so long into the lamp-lit room that the darkness
confused her, and she thought she must have been
She walked on, wondering whether Mr. Royall
was still in the porch. In her exalted mood she
did not greatly care whether he was waiting for
her or not : she seemed to be floating high over life,
on a great cloud of misery beneath which every-
day realities had dwindled to mere specks in space.
But the porch was empty, Mr. Royall's hat hung
on its peg in the passage, and the kitchen lamp had
been left to light her to bed. She took it and
The morning hours of the next day dragged by
without incident. Charity had imagined that, in
some way or other, she would learn whether
Hamey had already left; but Verena's deafness
prevented her being a source of news, and no
one came to the house who could bring enlighten-
Mr. Royall went out early, and did not return till
Verena had set the table for the midday meal.
When he came in he went straight to the kitchen
and shouted to the old woman : "Ready for din-
ner " then he turned into the dining-room,
where Charity was already seated. Harney's plate
was in its usual place, but Mr. Royall offered no
explanation of his absence, and Charity asked none.
The feverish exaltation of the night before had
dropped, and she said to herself that he had gone
away, indifferently, almost callously, and that now
her life would lapse again into the narrow rut out
of which he had lifted it. For a moment she was
inclined to sneer at herself for not having used
the arts that might have kept him.
She sat at table till the meal was over, lest Mr.
Royall should remark on her leaving; but when he
stood up she rose also, without waiting to help
Verena. She had her foot on the stairs when he
called to her to come back.
"I've got a headache. I'm going up to lie
"I want you should come in here first; I've got
something to say to you."
She was sure from his tone that in a moment
she would learn what every nerve in her ached to
know; but as she turned back she made a last ef-
fort of indifference.
Mr. Royall stood in the middle of the office, his
thick eyebrows beetling, his lower jaw trembling a
little. At first she thought he had been drinking;
then she saw that he was sober, but stirred by a
deep and stern emotion totally unlike his usual
transient angers. And suddenly she understood
that, until then, she had never really noticed him
or thought about him. Except on the occasion of
his one offense he had been to her merely the per-
son who is always there, the unquestioned central
fact of life, as inevitable but as uninteresting as
North Dormer itself, or any of the other conditions
fate had laid on her. Even then she had regarded
him only in relation to herself, and had never spec-
ulated as to his own feelings, beyond instinctively
concluding that he would not trouble her again in
the same way. But now she began to wonder what
he was really like.
He had grasped the back of his chair with both
hands, and stood looking hard at her. At length
he said: "Charity, for once let's you and me talk
together like friends."
Instantly she felt that something had happened,
and that he held her in his hand.
"Where is Mr. Harney? Why hasn't he come
back? Have you sent him away?" she broke out,
without knowing what she was saying.
The change in Mr. Royall frightened her. All
the blood seemed to leave his veins and against
his swarthy pallor the deep lines in his face looked
"Didn't he have time to answer some of those
questions last night? You was with him long
enough!" he said.
Charity stood speechless. The taunt was so un-
related to what had been happening in her soul
that she hardly understood it. But the instinct of
self-defense awoke in her.
"Who says I was with him last night ?"
"The whole place is saying it by now."
"Then it was you that put the lie into their
mouths. Oh, how I've always hated you!'* she
She had expected a retort in kind, and it startled
her to hear her exclamation sounding on through
"Yes, I know," Mr. Royall said slowly. "But
that ain't going to help us much now."
"It helps me not to care a straw what lies you
tell about me !"
"If they're lies, they're not my lies: my Bible
oath on that, Charity. I didn't know where you
were : I wasn't out of this house last night."
She made no answer and he went on: "Is it a
lie that you were seen coming out of Miss Hat ch-
ard's nigh onto midnight?"
She straightened herself with a laugh, all her
reckless insolence recovered. "I didn't look to see
what time it was."
"You lost girl . . . you . . . you . . . Oh, my
God, why did you tell me ?" he broke out, dropping
into his chair, his head bowed down like an old
Charity's self-possession had returned with the
sense of her danger. "Do you suppose I'd take the
trouble to lie to you? Who are you, anyhow, to
ask me where I go to when I go out at night?"
Mr. Royall lifted his head and looked at her.
His face had grown quiet and almost gentle, as she
remembered seeing it sometimes when she was a
little girl, before Mrs. Royall died.
"Don't let's go on like this, Charity. It can't do
any good to either of us. You were seen going into
that fellow's house . . ..you were seen coming out
of it. ... I've watched this thing coming, and I've
tried to stop it. As God sees me, I have. . . ."
"Ah, it was you, then? I knew it was you that
sent him away!"
He looked at her in surprise. "Didn't he tell you
so? I thought he understood." He spoke slowly,
with difficult pauses, "I didn't name you to him :
I'd have cut my hand off sooner. I just told him
I couldn't spare the horse any longer; and that the
cooking was getting too heavy for Verena. I guess
he's the kind that's heard the same thing before.
Anyhow, he took it quietly enough. He said his
job here was about done, anyhow; and there didn't
another word pass between us. . . . If he told you
otherwise he told you an untruth."
Charity listened in a cold trance of anger. It
was nothing to her what the village said . . . but
all this fingering of her dreams!
"I've told you he didn't tell me anything. I didn't
speak with him last night."
"You didn't speak with him?"
"No. . . . It's not that I care what any of you
say . . . but you may as well know. Things ain't
between us the way you think . . . and the other
people in this place. He was kind to me; he was
my friend ; and all of a sudden he stopped coming,
and I knew it was you that done it you!" All her
unreconciled memory of the past flamed out at him.
"So I went there last night to find out what you'd
said to him : that's all."
Mr. Royall drew a heavy breath. "But, then
if he wasn't there, what were you doing there all
that time? Charity, for pity's sake, tell me. I've
got to know, to stop their talking."
This pathetic abdication of all authority over her
did not move her : she could feel only the outrage
of his interference.
"Can't you see that I don't care what anybody
says ? It's true I went there to see him ; and he was
in his room, and I stood outside for ever so long
and watched him ; but I dursn't go in for fear he'd
think I'd come after him. . . ." She felt her voice
breaking, and gathered it up in a last defiance. "As
long as I live I'll never forgive you!" she cried.
Mr. Royall made no answer. He sat and pon-
dered with sunken head, his veined hands clasped
about the arms of his chair. Age seemed to have
come down on him as winter comes on the hills
after a storm. At length he looked up.
"Charity, you say you don't care; but you're the
proudest girl I know, and the last to want people
to talk against you. You know there's always eyes
watching you: you're handsomer and smarter than
the rest, and that's enough. But till lately youVe
never given them a chance. Now they've got it,
and they're going to use it. I believe what you
say, but they won't. ... It was Mrs. Tom Fry
seen you going in ... and two or three of them
watched for you to come out again. . . . You've
been with the fellow all day long every day since he
come here . . . and I'm a lawyer, and I know how
hard slander dies." He paused, but she stood mo-
tionless, without giving him any sign of acqui-
escence or even of attention. "He's a pleasant fel-
low to talk to I liked having him here myself.
The young men up here ain't had his chances. But
there's one thing as old as the hills and as plain
as daylight : if he'd wanted you the right way he'd
have said so."
Charity did not speak. It seemed to her that
nothing could exceed the bitterness of hearing such
words from such lips.
Mr. Royall rose from his seat. "See here, Char-
ity Royall: I had a shameful thought once, and
you've made me pay for it. Isn't that score pretty
near wiped out ? . . . There's a streak in me I ain't
always master of ; but I've always acted straight to
you but that once. And you've known I would
you've trusted me. For all your sneers and your
mockery you've always known I loved you the way
a man loves a decent woman. I'm a good many
years older than you, but I'm head and shoulders
above this place and everybody in it, and you know
that too. I slipped up once, but that's no reason
for not starting again. If you'll come with me
I'll do it If you'll marry me we'll leave here and
settle in some big town, where there's men, and
business, and things doing. It's not too late for me
to find an opening. ... I can see it by the way
folks treat me when I go down to Hepburn or Net-
tleton. . . ."
Charity made no movement. Nothing in his
appeal reached her heart, and she thought only of
words to wound and wither. But a growing las-
situde restrained her. What did anything matter
that he was saying? She saw the old life closing in
on her, and hardly heeded his fanciful picture of
"Charity Charity say you'll do it," she heard
him urge, all his lost years and wasted passion
in his voice.
"Oh, what's the use of all this? When I leave
here it won't be with you."
She moved toward the door as she spoke, and
he stood up and placed himself between her and
the threshold. He seemed suddenly tall and strong,
as though the extremity of his humiliation had
given him new vigour.
"That's all, is it? It's not much." He leaned
against the door, so towering and powerful that
he seemed to fill the narrow room. "Well, then
look here. . . . You're right : I've no claim on you
why should you look at a broken man like me?
You want the other fellow . . . and I don't blame
you. You picked out the best when you seen it ...
well, that was always my way." He fixed his stern
eyes on her, and she had the sense that the strug-
gle within him was at its highest. "Do you want
him to marry you?" he asked.
They stood and looked at each other for a long
moment, eye to eye, with the terrible equality of
courage that sometimes made her feel as if she had
his blood in her veins.
"Do you want him to say? I'll have him here
in an hour if you do. I ain't been in the law thirty
years for nothing. He's hired Carrick Fry's team
to take him to Hepburn, but he ain't going to start
for another hour. And I can put things to him so
he won't be long deciding. . . . He's soft: I could
see that. I don't say you won't be sorry afterward
but, by God, I'll give you the chance to be, if you
She heard him out in silence, too remote from all
he was feeling and saying for any sally of scorn to
relieve her. As she listened, there flitted through
her mind the vision of Liff Hyatt's muddy boot
coming down on the white bramble-flowers. The
same thing had happened now ; something transient
and exquisite had flowered in her, and she had stood
by and seen it trampled to earth. While the thought
passed through her she was aware of Mr. Royall,
still leaning against the door, but crestfallen, di-
minished, as though her silence were the answer
he most dreaded.
"I don't want any chance you can give me: I'm
glad he's going away," she said.
He kept his place a moment longer, his hand
on the door-knob. "Charity!" he pleaded. She
made no answer, and he turned the knob and went
out. She heard him fumble with the latch of the
front door, and saw him walk down the steps. He
passed out of the gate, and his figure, stooping and
heavy, receded slowly up the street.
For a while she remained where he had left her.
She was still trembling with the humiliation of his
last words, which rang so loud in her ears that it
seemed as though they must echo through the vil-
lage, proclaiming her a creature to lend herself to
such vile suggestions. Her shame weighed on her
like a physical oppression: the roof and walls
seemed to be closing in on her, and she was seized
by the impulse to get away, under the open sky,
where there would be room to breathe. She went
to the front door, and as she did so Lucius Harney
He looked graver and less confident than usual,
and for a moment or two neither of them spoke.
Then he held out his hand. "Are you going out?"
he asked. "May I come in?"
Her heart was beating so violently that she was
afraid to speak, and stood looking at him with tear-
dilated eyes; then she became aware of what her
silence must betray, and said quickly : "Yes : come
She led the way into the dining-room, and they
sat down on opposite sides of the table, the cruet-
stand and japanned bread-basket between them.
Harney had laid his straw hat on the table, and as
he sat there, in his easy-looking summer clothes,
a brown tie knotted under his flannel collar, and his
smooth brown hair brushed back from his fore-
head, she pictured him as she had seen him the
night before, lying on his bed, with the tossed locks
falling into his eyes, and his bare throat rising out
of his unbuttoned shirt. He had never seemed
so remote as at the moment when that vision flashed
through her mind.
"I'm so sorry it's good-bye : I suppose you know
I'm leaving," he began, abruptly and awkwardly;
she guessed that he was wondering how much she
knew of his reasons for going.
"I presume you found your work was over
quicker than what you expected/' she said.
"Well, yes that is, no : there are plenty of things
I should have liked to do. But my holiday's lim-
ited; and now that Mr. Royall needs the horse for
himself it's rather difficult to find means of get-
'There ain't any too many tems for hire around
here," she acquiesced; and there was another si-
"These days here have been awfully pleasant:
I wanted to thank you for making them so/' he
continued, his colour rising.
She could not think of any reply, and he went on :
"You've been wonderfully kind to me, and I wanted
to tell you. ... I wish I could think of you as
happier, less lonely. . . . Things are sure to change
for you by and by. . . ."
"Things don't change at North Dormer: people
just get used to them."
The answer seemed to break up the order of his
pre-arranged consolations, and he sat looking at her
uncertainly. Then he said, with his sweet smile:
"That's not true of you. It can't be."
The smile was like a knife-thrust through her
heart : everything in her began to tremble and break
loose. She felt her tears run over, and stood up.
"Well, good-bye/' she said.
She was aware of his taking her hand, and of
feeling that his touch was lifeless.
"Good-bye/' He turned away, and stopped on
the threshold. "You'll say good-bye for me to
She heard the closing of the outer door and the
sound of his quick tread along the path. The latch
of the gate clicked after him.
The next morning when she arose in the cold
dawn and opened her shutters she saw a freckled
boy standing on the other side of the road and
looking up at her. He was a boy from a farm three
or four miles down the Creston road, and she won-
dered what he was doing there at that hour, and
why he looked so hard at her window. When he
saw her he crossed over and leaned against the gate
unconcernedly. There was no one stirring in the
house, and she threw a shawl over her night-gown
and ran down and let herself out. By the time she
reached the gate the boy was sauntering down
the road, whistling carelessly; but she saw that a
letter had been thrust between the slats and the
crossbar of the gate. She took it out and hastened
back to her room.
The envelope bore her name, and inside was a
leaf torn from a pocket-diary.
I can't go away like this. I am staying for a few
days at Creston River. Will you come down and meet
me at Creston pool ? I will wait for you till evening.
CHARITY sat before the mirror trying on a
hat which Ally Hawes, with much secrecy,
had trimmed for her. It was of white straw, with
a drooping brim and a cherry-coloured lining that
made her face glow like the inside of the shell on
the parlour mantelpiece.
She propped the square of looking-glass against
Mr. Royall's black leather Bible, steadying it in
front with a white stone on which a view of the
Brooklyn Bridge was painted; and she sat before
her reflection, bending the brim this way and that,
while Ally Hawes's pale face looked over her shoul-
der like the ghost of wasted opportunities.
"I look awful, don't I ?" she said at last with a
Ally smiled and took back the hat. "I'll stitch the
roses on right here, so's you can put it away at
Charity laughed, and ran her fingers through her
rough dark hair. She knew that Harney liked to
see its reddish edges ruffled about her forehead and
breaking into little rings at the nape. She sat down
on her bed and watched Ally stoop over the hat with
a careful frown.
"Don't you ever feel like going down to Nettle-
ton for a day?" she asked.
Ally shook her head without looking up. "No,
I always remember that awful time I went down
with Julia to that doctor's/'
"I can't help it. The house is on the corner of
Wing Street and Lake Avenue. The trolley from
the station goes right by it, and the day the min-
ister took us down to see those pictures I recog-
nized it right off, and couldn't seem to see any-
thing else. There's a big black sign with gold
letters all across the front 'Private Consultations.'
She came as near as anything to dying. . . ."
"Poor Julia!" Charity sighed from the height
of her purity and her security. She had a friend
whom she trusted and who respected her. She was
going with him to spend the next day the Fourth
of July at Nettleton. Whose business was it but
hers, and what was the harm? The pity of it was
that girls like Julia did not know how to choose,
and to keep bad fellows at a distance. . . . Charity
slipped down from the bed, and stretched out her
"Is it sewed? Let me try it on again." She put
the hat on, and smiled at her image. The thought
of Julia had vanished. . . .
The next morning she was up before dawn, and
saw the yellow sunrise broaden behind the hills,
and the silvery lustre preceding a hot day tremble
across the sleeping fields.
Her plans had been made with great care. She
had announced that she was going down to the
Band of Hope picnic at Hepburn, and as no one
else from North Dormer intended to venture so far
it was not likely that her absence from the festivity
would be reported. Besides, if it were she would
not greatly care. She was determined to assert her
independence, and if she stooped to fib about the
Hepburn picnic it was chiefly from the secretive in-
stinct that made her dread the profanation of her
happiness. Whenever she was with Lucius Harney
she would have liked some impenetrable mountain
mist to hide her.
It was arranged that she should walk to a point
of the Creston road where Harney was to pick her
up and drive her across the hills to Hepburn in time
for the nine-thirty train to Nettleton. Harney at
first had been rather lukewarm about the trip. He
declared himself ready to take her to Nettleton,
but urged her not to go on the Fourth of July,
on account of the crowds, the probable lateness of
the trains, the difficulty of her getting back before
night; but her evident disappointment caused him
to give way, and even to affect a faint enthusiasm
for the adventure. She understood why he was not
more eager : he must have seen sights beside which
even a Fourth of July at Nettleton would seem
tame. But she had never seen anything ; and a great
longing possessed her to walk the streets of a big
town on a holiday, clinging to his arm and jostled
by idle crowds in their best clothes. The only cloud
on the prospect was the fact that the shops would
be closed ; but she hoped he would take her back an-
other day, when they were open.
She started out unnoticed in the early sunlight,
slipping through the kitchen while Verena bent
above the stove. To avoid attracting notice, she
carried her new hat carefully wrapped up, and had
thrown a long grey veil of Mrs. Roy all's over the
new white muslin dress which Ally's clever fingers
had made for her. All of the ten dollars Mr. Royall
had given her, and a part of her own savings as
well, had been spent on renewing her wardrobe;
and when Harney jumped out of the buggy to meet
her she read her reward in his eyes.
The freckled boy who had brought her the note
two weeks earlier was to wait with the buggy at
Hepburn till their return. He perched at Charity's
feet, his legs dangling between the wheels, and they
could not say much because of his presence. But
it did not greatly matter, for their past was now
rich enough to have given them a private language ;
and with the long day stretching before them like
the blue distance beyond the hills there was a deli-
cate pleasure in postponement.
When Charity, in response to Harney's message,
had gone to meet him at the Creston pool her heart
had been so full of mortification and anger that
his first words might easily have estranged her.
But it happened that he had found the right word,
which was one of simple friendship. His tone had
instantly justified her, and put her guardian in
the wrong. He had made no allusion to what had
passed between Mr. Royall and himself, but had
simply let it appear that he had left because means
of conveyance were hard to find at North Dormer,
and because Creston River was a more convenient
centre. He told her that he had hired by the week
the buggy of the freckled boy's father, who served
as livery-stable keeper to one or two melancholy
summer boarding-houses on Creston Lake, and had
discovered, within driving distance, a number of
houses worthy of his pencil; and he said that he
could not, while he was in the neighbourhood,
give up the pleasure of seeing her as often as pos-
When they took leave of each other she promised
to continue to be his guide; and during the fort-
night which followed they roamed the hills in happy
comradeship. In most of the village friendships
between youths and maidens lack of conversation
was made up for by tentative fondling; but Har-
ney, except when he had tried to comfort her in her
trouble on their way back from the Hyatts', had
never put his arm about her, or sought to betray
her into any sudden caress. It seemed to be enough
for him to breathe her nearness like a flower's ; and
since his pleasure at being with her, and his sense
of her youth and her grace, perpetually shone in
9 [I2 9 ]
his eyes and softened the inflections of his voice, his
reserve did not suggest coldness, but the deference
due to a girl of his own class.
The buggy was drawn by an old trotter who
whirled them along so briskly that the pace created
a little breeze; but when they reached Hepburn the
full heat of the airless morning descended on them.
At the railway station the platform was packed
with a sweltering throng, and they took refuge in
the waiting-room, where there was another throng,
already dejected by the heat and the long waiting
for retarded trains. Pale mothers were struggling
with fretful babies, or trying to keep their older
offspring from the fascination of the track; girls
and their "fellows" were giggling and shoving, and
passing about candy in sticky bags, and older men,
collarless and perspiring, were shifting heavy chil-
dren from one arm to the other, and keeping a
haggard eye on the scattered members of their fam-
At last the train rumbled in, and engulfed the
waiting multitude. Harney swept Charity up on
to the first car and they captured a bench for two,
and sat in happy isolation while the train swayed
and roared along tkrough rich fields and languid
tree-clumps. The haze of the morning had become
a sort of clear tremor over everything, like the col-
ourless vibration about a flame; and the opulent
landscape seemed to droop under it. But to Charity
the heat was a stimulant: it enveloped the whole
world in the same glow that burned at her heart.
Now and then a lurch of the train flung her against
Harney, and through her thin muslin she felt the
touch of his sleeve. She steadied herself, their eyes
met, and the flaming breath of the day seemed to
The train roared into the Nettleton station, the
descending mob caught them on its tide, and they
were swept out into a vague dusty square thronged
with seedy "hacks' ' and long curtained omnibuses
drawn by horses with tasselled fly-nets over their
withers, who stood swinging their depressed heads
drearily from side to side.
A mob of 'bus and hack drivers were shouting
"To the Eagle House," "To the Washington
House," "This way to the Lake," "Just starting for
Greytop ;" and through their yells came the popping
of fire-crackers, the explosion of torpedoes, the
banging of toy-guns, and the crash of a firemen's
band trying to play the Merry Widow while they
were being packed into a waggonette streaming with
The ramshackle wooden hotels about the square
were all hung with flags and paper lanterns, and as
Harney and Charity turned into the main street,
with its brick and granite business blocks crowding
out the old low-storied shops, and its towering
poles strung with innumerable wires that seemed to
tremble and buzz in the heat, they saw the double
line of flags and lanterns tapering away gaily to
the park at the other end of the perspective. The
noise and colour of this holiday vision seemed to
transform Nettleton into a metropolis. Charity
could not believe that Springfield or even Boston
had anything grander to show, and she wondered
if, at this very moment, Annabel Balch, on the arm
of as brilliant a young man, were threading her way
through scenes as resplendent.
"Where shall we go first?" Harney asked; but
as she turned her happy eyes on him he guessed the
answer and said: "We'll take a look round, shall
The street swarmed with their fellow-travellers,
with other excursionists arriving from other di-
rections, with Nettleton's own population, and with
the mill-hands trooping in from the factories on
the Creston. The shops were closed, but one would
scarcely have noticed it, so numerous were the glass
doors swinging open on saloons, on restaurants,
on drug-stores gushing from every soda-water tap,
on fruit and confectionery shops stacked with straw-
berry-cake, cocoanut drops, trays of glistening mo-
lasses candy, boxes of caramels and chewing-gum,
baskets of sodden strawberries, and dangling
branches of bananas. Outside of some of the doors
were trestles with banked-up oranges and apples,
spotted pears and dusty raspberries; and the air
reeked with the smell of fruit and stale coffee, beer
and sarsaparilla and fried potatoes.
Even the shops that were closed offered, through
wide expanses of plate-glass, hints of hidden riches.
In some, waves of silk and ribbon broke over shores
of imitation moss from which ravishing hats rose
like tropical orchids. In others, the pink throats of
gramophones opened their giant convolutions in
a soundless chorus ; or bicycles shining in neat ranks
seemed to await the signal of an invisible starter;
or tiers of fancy-goods in leatherette and paste and
celluloid dangled their insidious graces ; and, in one
vast bay that seemed to project them into exciting
contact with the public, wax ladies in daring dresses
chatted elegantly, or, with gestures intimate yet
blameless, pointed to their pink corsets and trans-
Presently Harney found that his watch had
stopped, and turned in at a small jeweller's shop
which chanced to be still open. While the watch
was being examined Charity leaned over the glass
counter where, on a background of dark blue vel-
vet, pins, rings and brooches glittered like the moon
and stars. She had never seen jewellery so near by,
and she longed to lift the glass lid and plunge her
hand among the shining treasures. But already
Harney's watch was repaired, and he laid his hand
on her arm and drew her from her dream.
"Which do you like best ?" he asked leaning over
the counter at her side.
"I don't know. ..." She pointed to a gold lily-
of-the-valley with white flowers.
"Don't you think the blue pin's better?" he sug-
gested, and immediately she saw that the lily of the
valley was mere trumpery compared to the small
round stone, blue as a mountain lake, with little
sparks of light all round it. She coloured at her
want of discrimination.
"It's so lovely I guess I was afraid to look at
it," she said.
He laughed, and they went out of the shop; but a
few steps away he exclaimed : "Oh, by Jove, I for-
got something," and turned back and left her in
the crowd. She stood staring down a row of pink
gramophone throats till he rejoined her and slipped
his arm through hers.
"You mustn't be afraid of looking at the blue
pin any longer, because it belongs to you," he said ;
and she felt a little box being pressed into her hand.
Her heart gave a leap of joy, but it reached her
lips only in a shy stammer. She remembered other
girls whom she had heard planning to extract pres-
ents from their fellows, and was seized with a sud-
den dread lest Harney should have imagined that
she had leaned over the pretty things in the glass
case in the hope of having one given to her. . . .
A little farther down the street they turned in at
a glass doorway opening on a shining hall with a
mahogany staircase, and brass cages in its corners,
"We must have something to eat," Harney said;
and the next moment Charity found herself in a
dressing-room all looking-glass and lustrous sur-
faces, where a party of showy-looking girls were
dabbing on powder and straightening immense
plumed hats. When they had gone she took courage
to bathe her hot face in one of the marble basins,
and to straighten her own hat-brim, which the para-
sols of the crowd had indented. The dresses in
the shops had so impressed her that sjie scarcely
dared look at her reflection; but when she did so,
the glow of her face under her cherry-coloured hat,
and the curve of her young shoulders through the
transparent muslin, restored her courage ; and when
she had taken the blue brooch from its box and
pinned it on her bosom she walked toward the res-
taurant with her head high, as if she had always
strolled through tessellated halls beside young men
Her spirit sank a little at the sight of the slim-
waisted waitresses in black, with bewitching mob-
caps on their haughty heads, who were moving
disdainfully between the tables. "Not f'r another
hour," one of them dropped to Harney in passing;
and he stood doubtfully glancing about him.
"Oh, well, we can't stay sweltering here," he
decided; "let's try somewhere else " and with a
sense of relief Charity followed him from that scene
of inhospitable splendour.
The "somewhere else" turned out after more
hot tramping, and several failures to be, of all
things, a little open-air place in a back street that
called itself a French restaurant, and consisted in
two or three rickety tables under a scarlet-runner,
between a patch of zinnias and petunias and a big
elm bending over from the next yard. Here they
lunched on queerly flavoured things, while Harney,
leaning back in a crippled rocking-chair, smoked
cigarettes between the courses and poured into
Charity's glass a pale yellow wine which he said
was the very same one drank in just such jolly
places in France.
Charity did not think the wine as good as sarsa-
parilla, but she sipped a mouthful for the pleasure
of doing what he did, and of fancying herself alone
with him in foreign countries. The illusion was
increased by their being served by a deep-bosomed
woman with smooth hair and a pleasant laugh, who
talked to Harney in unintelligible words, and
seemed amazed and overjoyed at his answering her
in kind. At the other tables other people sat, mill-
hands probably, homely but pleasant looking, who
spoke the same shrill jargon, and looked at Harney
and Charity with friendly eyes; and between the
table-legs a poodle with bald patches and pink eyes
nosed about for scraps, and sat up on his hind legs
Harney showed no inclination to move, for hot
as their corner was, it was at least shaded and
quiet; and, from the main thoroughfares came the
clanging of trolleys, the incessant popping of tor-
pedoes, the jingle of street-organs, the bawling of
megaphone men and the loud murmur of increasing
crowds. He leaned back, smoking his cigar, pat-
ting the dog, and stirring the coffee that steamed
in their chipped cups. "It's the real thing, you
know," he explained; and Charity hastily revised
her previous conception of the beverage.
They had made no plans for the rest of the day,
and when Harney asked her what she wanted to do
next she was too bewildered by rich possibilities
to find an answer. Finally she confessed that she
longed to go to the Lake, where she had not been
taken on her former visit, and when he answered,
"Oh, there's time for that it will be pleasanter
later," she suggested seeing some pictures like the
ones Mr. Miles had taken her to. She thought Har-
ney looked a little disconcerted; but he passed his
fine handkerchief over his warm brow, said gaily
"Come along, then," and rose with a last pat for
the pink-eyed dog.
Mr. Miles's pictures had been shown in an aus-
tere Y.M.C.A. hall, with white walls and an or-
gan; but Harney led Charity to a glittering place
everything she saw seemed to glitter where they
passed, between immense pictures of yellow-haired
beauties stabbing villains in evening dress, into a
velvet-curtained auditorium packed with spectators
to the last limit of compression. After that, for a
while, everything was merged in her brain in swim-
ming circles of heat and blinding alternations of
light and darkness. All the world has to show
seemed to pass before her in a chaos of palms and
minarets, charging cavalry regiments, roaring lions,
comic policemen and scowling murderers; and the
crowd around her, the hundreds of hot sallow
candy-munching faces, young, old, middle-aged, but
all kindled with the same contagious excitement,
became part of the spectacle, and danced on the
screen with the rest.
Presently the thought of the cool trolley-run to
the Lake grew irresistible, and they struggled out
of the theatre. As they stood on the pavement,
Harney pale with the heat, and even Charity a lit-
tie confused by it, a young man drove by in an
electric -run-about with a calico band bearing the
words: "Ten dollars to take you round the Lake."
Before Charity knew what was happening, Harney
had waved a hand, and they were climbing in.
"Say, for twenny-five I'll run you out first to see the
ball-game and back/' the driver proposed with an
insinuating grin; but Charity said quickly: "Oh,
I'd rather go rowing on the Lake." The street
was so thronged that progress was slow; but the
glory of sitting in the little carriage while it wrig-
gled its way between laden omnibuses and trolleys
made the moments seem too short. "Next turn
is Lake Avenue," the young man called out over
his shoulder; and as they paused in the wake of
a big omnibus groaning with Knights of Pythias
in cocked hats and swords, Charity looked up and
saw on the corner a brick house with a conspicuous
black and gold sign across its front. "Dr. Merkle ;
Private Consultations at all hours. Lady Attend-
ants," she read ; and suddenly she remembered Ally
Hawes's words: "The house was at the corner of
Wing Street and Lake Avenue . . . there's a big
black sign across the front. . . ." Through all the
heat and the rapture a shiver of cold ran over her.
THE Lake at last a sheet of shining metal
brooded over by drooping trees. Charity
and Harney had secured a boat and, getting away
from the wharves and the refreshment-booths,
they drifted idly along, hugging the shadow of
the shore. Where the sun struck the water its
shafts flamed back blindingly at the heat-veiled sky ;
and the least shade was black by contrast. The
Lake was so smooth that the reflection of the trees
on its edge seemed enamelled on a solid surface;
but gradually, as the sun declined, the water grew
transparent, and Charity, leaning over, plunged her
fascinated gaze into depths so clear that she saw
the inverted tree-tops interwoven with the green
growths of the bottom.
They rounded a point at the farther end of the
Lake, and entering an inlet pushed their bow against
a protruding tree-trunk. A green veil of willows
overhung them. Beyond the trees, wheat-fields
sparkled in the sun; and all along the horizon the
clear hills throbbed with light. Charity leaned
back in the stern, and Harney unshipped the oars
and lay in the bottom of the boat without
Ever since their meeting at the Creston pool he
had been subject to these brooding silences, which
were as different as possible from the pauses when
they ceased to speak because words were needless.
At such times his face wore the expression she had
seen on it when she had looked in at him from
the darkness, and again there came over her a sense
of the mysterious distance between them ; but usu-
ally his fits of abstraction were followed by bursts
of gaiety that chased away the shadow before it
She was still thinking of the ten dollars he had
handed to the driver of the run-about. It had given
them twenty minutes of pleasure, and it seemed
unimaginable that anyone should be able to buy
amusement at that rate. With ten dollars he might
have bought her an engagement ring ; she knew that
Mrs. Tom Fry's, which came from Springfield, and
had a diamond in it, had cost only eight seventy-
five. But she did not know why the thought had
occurred to her. Harney would never buy her an
engagement ring: they were friends and comrades,
but no more. He had been perfectly fair to her:
he had never said a word to mislead her. She
wondered what the girl was like whose hand was
waiting for his ring. . . .
Boats were beginning to thicken on the Lake
and the clang of incessantly arriving trolleys an-
nounced the return of the crowds from the ball-
field. The shadows lengthened across the pearl-
grey water and two white clouds near the sun were
turning golden. On the opposite shore men were
hammering hastily at a wooden scaffolding in a
field. Charity asked what it was for.
"Why, the fireworks. I suppose there'll be a big
show." Harney looked at her and a smile crept
into his moody eyes. "Have you never seen any
"Miss Hatchard always sends up lovely rockets
on the Fourth," she answered doubtfully.
"Oh " his contempt was unbounded. "I mean
a big performance like this : illuminated boats, and
all the rest."
She flushed at the picture. "Do they send them
up from the Lake, too?"
"Rather. Didn't you notice that big raft we
passed? It's wonderful to see the rockets complet-
ing their orbits down under one's feet." She said
nothing, and he put the oars into the rowlocks.
"If we stay we'd better go and pick up something
"But how can we get back afterward?" she ven-
tured, feeling it would break her heart if she
He consulted a time-table, found a ten o'clock
train and reassured her. "The moon rises so late
that it will be dark by eight, and we'll have over
an hour of it."
Twilight fell, and lights began to show along
the shore. The trolleys roaring out from Nettle-
ton became great luminous serpents coiling in and
out among the trees. The wooden eating-houses
at the Lake's edge danced with lanterns, and the
dusk echoed with laughter and shouts and the
clumsy splashing of oars.
Harney and Charity had found a table in the
corner of a balcony built over the Lake, and were
patiently awaiting an unattainable chowder. Close
under them the water lapped the piles, agitated
by the evolutions of a little white steamboat trel-
lised with coloured globes which was to run pas-
sengers up and down the Lake. It was already
black with them as it sheered off on its first
Suddenly Charity heard a woman's laugh b'ehind
her. The sound was familiar, and she turned to
look. A band of showily dressed girls and dapper
young men wearing badges of secret societies, with
new straw hats tilted far back on their square-
clipped hair, had invaded the balcony and were
loudly clamouring for a table. The girl in the
lead was the one who had laughed. She wore a
large hat with a long white feather, and from
under its brim her painted eyes looked at Charity
with amused recognition.
"Say! if this ain't like Old Home Week," she
remarked to the girl at her elbow; and giggles and
glances passed between them. Charity knew at
once that the girl with the white feather was Julia
Hawes. She had lost her freshness, and the paint
under her eyes made her face seem thinner; but
her lips had the same lovely curve, and the same
cold mocking smile, as if there were some secret
absurdity in the person she was looking at, and
she had instantly detected it.
Charity flushed to the forehead and looked away.
She felt herself humiliated by Julia's sneer, and
vexed that the mockery of such a creature should
affect her. She trembled lest Harney should no-
tice that the noisy troop had recognized her; but
they found no table free, and passed on tumultu-
Presently there was a soft rush through the air
and a shower of silver fell from the blue evening
sky. In another direction, pale Roman candles shot
up singly through the trees, and a fire-haired rocket
swept the horizon like a portent. Between these
intermittent flashes the velvet curtains of the dark-
ness were descending, and in the intervals of eclipse
the voices of the crowds seemed to sink to smoth-
Charity and Harney, dispossessed by newcomers,
were at length obliged to give up their table and
struggle through the throng about the boat-landings.
For a while there seemed no escape from the tide
of late arrivals; but finally Harney secured the
last two places on the stand from which the more
privileged were to see the fireworks. The seats
were at the end of a row, one above the other.
Charity had taken off her hat to have an uninter-
rupted view; and whenever she leaned back to fol-
low the curve of some dishevelled rocket she could
feel Harney's knees against her head.
After a while the scattered fireworks ceased. A
longer interval of darkness followed, and then the
whole night broke into flower. From every point
of the horizon, gold and silver arches sprang up
and crossed each other, sky-orchards broke into
blossom, shed their flaming petals and hung their
branches with golden fruit; and all the while the
air was filled with a soft supernatural hum, as
though great birds were building their nests in
those invisible tree-tops.
Now and then there came a lull, and a wave of
moonlight swept the Lake. In a flash it revealed
hundreds of boats, steel-dark against lustrous rip-
ples; then it withdrew as if with a furling of vast
translucent wings. Charity's heart throbbed with
delight. It was as if all the latent beauty of things
had been unveiled to her. She could not imagine
that the world held anything more wonderful; but
near her she heard someone say, "You wait till
you see the set piece," and instantly her hopes
took a fresh flight. At last, just as it was begin-
ning to seem as though the whole arch of the sky
were one great lid pressed against her dazzled eye-
balls, and striking out of them continuous jets of
jewelled light, the velvet darkness settled down
again, and a murmur of expectation ran through
"Now now!" the same voice said excitedly; and
Charity, grasping the hat on her knee, crushed it
tight in the effort to restrain her rapture.
For a moment the night seemed to grow more
impenetrably black; then a great picture stood out
against it like a constellation. It was surmounted
by a golden scroll bearing the inscription, "Wash-
ington crossing the Delaware," and across a flood
of motionless golden ripples the National Hero
passed, erect, solemn and gigantic, standing with
folded arms in the stern of a slowly moving golden
A long "Oh-h-h" burst from the spectators : the
stand creaked and shook with their blissful trepida-
tions. "Oh-h-h," Charity gasped: she had forgot-
ten where she was, had at last forgotten even Har-
ney's nearness. She seemed to have been caught
up into the stars. . . .
The picture vanished and darkness came down.
In the obscurity she felt her head clasped by two
hands : her face was drawn backward, and Harney's
lips were pressed on hers. With sudden vehemence
he wound his arms about her, holding her head
against his breast while she gave him back his
kisses. An unknown Harney had revealed himself,
a Harney who dominated her and yet over whom
she felt herself possessed of a new mysterious
But the crowd was beginning to move, and he
had to release her. "Come," he said in a confused
voice. He scrambled over the side of the stand,
and holding up his arm caught her as she sprang
to the ground. He passed his arm about her waist,
steadying her against the descending rush of peo-
ple; and she clung to him, speechless, exultant, as
if all the crowding and confusion about them were
a mere vain stirring of the air.
"Come," he repeated, "we must try to make the
trolley." He drew her along, and she followed,
still in her dream. They walked as if they were
one, so isolated in ecstasy that the people jostling
them on every side seemed impalpable. But when
they reached the terminus the illuminated trolley
was already clanging on its way, its platforms black
with passengers. The cars waiting behind it were
as thickly packed; and the throng about the ter-
minus was so dense that it seemed hopeless to strug-
gle for a place.
"Last trip up the Lake," a megaphone bellowed
from the wharf ; and the lights of the little steam-
boat came dancing out of the darkness.
"No use waiting here ; shall we run up the Lake ?"
They pushed their way back to the edge of the
water just as the gang-plank was lowered from the
white side of the boat. The electric light at the
end of the wharf flashed full on the descending pas-
sengers, and among them Charity caught sight of
Julia Hawes, her white feather askew, and the face
under it flushed with coarse laughter. As she
stepped from the gang-plank she stopped short, her
dark-ringed eyes darting malice.
"Hullo, Charity Royall!" she called out; and
then, looking back over her shoulder : "Didn't I tell
you it was a family party? Here's grandpa's little
darling- come to take him home !"
A snigger ran through the group ; and then, tow-
ering above them, and steadying himself by the
hand-rail in a desperate effort at erectness, Mr.
Royall stepped stiffly ashore. Like the young men
of the party, he wore a secret society emblem in
the buttonhole of his black frock-coat. His head
was covered by a new Panama hat, and his nar-
row black tie, half undone, dangled down on his
rumpled shirt-front. His face, a livid brown, with
red blotches of anger and lips sunken in like an
old man's, was a lamentable ruin in the searching
He was just behind Julia Hawes, and had one
hand on her arm ; but as he left the gang-plank he
freed himself, and moved a step or two away from
his companions. He had seen Charity at once, and
his glance passed slowly from her to Harney,
whose arm was still about her. He stood staring
at them, and trying to master the senile quiver of
his lips; then he drew himself up with the tremu-
lous majesty of drunkenness, and stretched out his
"You whore you damn bare-headed whore,
you!" he enunciated slowly.
There was a scream of tipsy laughter from the
party, and Charity involuntarily put her hands to
her head. She remembered that her hat had fallen
from her lap when she jumped up to leave the stand ;
and suddenly she had a vision of herself, hatless,
dishevelled, with a man's arm about her, confront-
ing that drunken crew, headed by her guardian's,
pitiable figure. The picture filled her with shame.
She had known since childhood about Mr. Royall's
"habits" : had seen him, as she went up to bed, sit-
ting morosely in his office, a bottle at his elbow ; or
coming home, heavy and quarrelsome, from his
business expeditions to Hepburn or Springfield ; but
the idea of his associating himself publicly with a
band of disreputable girls and bar-room loafers was
new and dreadful to her.
"Oh " she said in a gasp of misery; and
releasing herself from Harney's arm she went
straight up to Mr. Royall.
"You come home with me you come right home
with me," she said in a low stern voice, as if she
had not heard his apostrophe ; and one of the girls
called out: "Say, how many fellers does she want?"
There was another laugh, followed by a pause of
curiosity, during which Mr. Royall continued to
glare at Charity. At length his twitching lips parted.
"I said, 'You -damn whore !' " he repeated with
precision, steadying himself on Julia's shoulder.
Laughs and jeers were beginning to spring up
from the circle of people beyond their group; and
a voice called out from the gangway : "Now, then,
step lively there all aboard!" The pressure of
approaching and departing passengers forced the
actors in the rapid scene apart, and pushed them
back into the throng. Charity found herself cling-
ing to Harney's arm and sobbing desperately. Mr.
Royall had disappeared, and in the distance she
heard the receding sound of Julia's laugh.
The boat, laden to the taff rail, was puffing away
on her last trip.
AT two o'clock in the morning the freckled
boy from Creston stopped his sleepy horse
at the door of the red house, and Charity got
out. Harney had taken leave of her at Creston
River, charging the boy to drive her home. Her
mind was still in a fog of misery, and she did not
remember very clearly what had happened, or what
they had said to each other, during the interminable
interval since their departure from Nettleton; but
the secretive instinct of the animal in pain was so
strong in her that she had a sense of relief when
Harney got out and she drove on alone.
The full moon hung over North Dormer, whit-
ening the mist that filled the hollows between the
hills and floated transparently above the fields.
Charity stood a moment at the gate, looking out
into the waning night. She watched the boy drive
off, his horse's head wagging heavily to and fro;
then she went around to the kitchen door and felt
under the mat for the key. She found it, unlocked
the door and went in. The kitchen was dark, but
she discovered a box of matches, lit a candle and
went upstairs. Mr. Royall's door, opposite hers,
stood open on his unlit room ; evidently he had not
come back. She went into her room, bolted her
door and began slowly to untie the ribbon about
her waist, and to take off her dress. Under the
bed she saw the paper bag in which she had hidden
her new hat from inquisitive eyes. . . .
She lay for a long time sleepless on her bed,
staring up at the moonlight on the low ceiling ; dawn
was in the sky when she fell asleep, a.nd when she
woke the sun was on her face.
She dressed and went down to the kitchen.
Verena was there alone: she glanced at Charity
tranquilly, with her old deaf -looking eyes. There
was no sign of Mr. Roy all about the house and
the hours passed without his reappearing. Chanty
had gone up to her room, and sat there listlessly,
her hands on her lap. Puffs of sultry air fanned
her dimity window curtains and flies buzzed sti-
flingly against the bluish panes.
At one o'clock Verena hobbled up to see if she
were not coming down to dinner ; but she shook her
head, and the old woman went away, saying: "I'll
cover up, then."
The sun turned and left her room, and Charity
seated herself in the window, gazing down the vil-
lage street through the half-opened shutters. Not
a thought was in her mind ; it was just a dark whirl-
pool of crowding images ; and she watched the peo-
ple passing along the street, Dan Targatt's team
hauling a load of pine-trunks down to Hepburn, the
sexton's old white horse grazing on the bank across
the way, as if she looked at these familiar sights
from the other side of the grave.
She was roused from her apathy by seeing Ally
Hawes come out of the Frys' gate and walk slowly
toward the red house with her uneven limping step.
At the sight Charity recovered her severed con-
tact with reality. She divined that Ally was com-
ing to hear about her day : no one else was in
the secret of the trip to Nettleton, and it had
flattered Ally profoundly to be allowed to know of
At the thought of having to see her, of having
to meet her eyes and answer or evade her ques-
tions, the whole horror of the previous night's ad-
venture rushed back upon Charity. What had been
a feverish nightmare became a cold and unescap-
able fact. Poor Ally, at that moment, represented
North Dormer, with all its mean curiosities, its
furtive malice, its sham unconsciousness of evil.
Charity knew that, although all relations with Julia
were supposed to be severed, the tender-hearted Ally
still secretly communicated with her ; and no doubt
Julia would exult in the chance of retailing the
scandal of the wharf. The story, exaggerated and
distorted, was probably already on its way to North
Ally's dragging pace had not carried her far
from the Frys' gate when she was stopped by old
Mrs. Sollas, who was a great talker, and spoke very
slowly because she had never been able to get used
to her new teeth from Hepburn. Still, even this
respite would not last long; in another ten min-
utes Ally would be at the door, and Charity would
hear her greeting Verena in the kitchen, and then
calling up from the foot of the stairs.
Suddenly it became clear that flight, and instant
flight, was the only thing conceivable. The long-
ing to escape, to get away from familiar faces, from
places where she was known, had always been
strong in her in moments of distress. She had a
childish belief in the miraculous power of strange
scenes and new faces to transform her life and
wipe out bitter memories. But such impulses were
mere fleeting whims compared to the cold resolve
which now possessed her. She felt she could n
remain an hour longer under the roof of the man
who had publicly dishonoured her, and face to face
with the people who would presently be gloati
over all the details of her humiliation.
Her passing pity for Mr. Royall had been swal-
lowed i \p in loathing: everything in her recoiled
from the disgraceful spectacle of the drunken old
man apostrophizing her in the presence of a band
of loafers and street-walkers. Suddenly, vividly,
she relived again the horrible moment when he had
tried to force himself into her room, and what she
had before supposed to be a mad aberration now
appeared to her as a vulgar incident in a debauched
and degraded life.
While these thoughts were hurrying through her
she had dragged out her old canvas school-bag, and
was thrusting into it a few articles of clothing and
the little packet of letters she had received from
Harney. From under her pincushion she took the
library key, and laid it in full view; then she felt
at the back of a drawer for the blue brooch that
Harney had given her. She would not have dared
to wear it openly at North Dormer, but now she fas-
tened it on her bosom as if it were a talisman to pro-
tect her in her flight. These preparations had taken
but a few minutes, and when they were finished
Ally Hawes was still at the Frys' corner talking
to old Mrs. Sollas. . . .
She had said to herself, as she always said in
moments of revolt: "I'll go to the Mountain I'll
go back to my own folks." She had never really
meant it before; but now, as she considered her
case, no other course seemed open. She had never
learned any trade that would have given her inde-
pendence in a strange place, and she knew no one
in the big towns of the valley, where she might
have hoped to find employment. Miss Hatchard
was still away; but even had she been at North
Dormer she was the last person to whom Charity
would have turned, since one of the motives urging
her to flight was the wish not to see Lucius Harney.
Travelling back from Nettleton, in the crowded
brightly-lit train, all exchange of confidence between
them had been impossible; but during their drive
from Hepburn to Creston River she had gathered
from Hartley's snatches of consolatory talk again
hampered by the freckled boy's presence that he
intended to see her the next day. At the moment
she had found a vague comfort in the assurance;
but in the desolate lucidity of the hours that fol-
lowed she had come to see the impossibility of meet-
ing him again. Her dream of comradeship was
over; and the scene on the wharf vile and dis-
graceful as it had been had after all shed the
light of truth on her minute of madness. It was
as if her guardian's words had stripped her bare
in the face of the grinning crowd and proclaimed
to the world the secret admonitions of her con-
She did not think these things out clearly; she
simply followed the blind propulsion of her wretch-
edness. She did not want, ever again, to see any-
one she had known; above all, she did not want to
see Harney. ...
She climbed the hill-path behind the house and
struck through the woods by a short-cut leading to
the Creston road. A lead-coloured sky hung heav-
ily over the fields, and in the forest the motion-
less air was stifling; but she pushed on, impatient
to reach the road which was the shortest way to the
To do so, she had to follow the Creston road for
a mile or two, and go within half a mile of the
village; and she walked quickly, fearing to meet
Harney. But there was no sign of him, and she
had almost reached the branch road when she saw
the flanks of a large white tent projecting through
the trees by the roadside. She supposed that it
sheltered a travelling circus which had come there
for the Fourth; but as she drew nearer she saw,
over the folded-back flap, a large sign bearing the
inscription, "Gospel Tent." The interior seemed
to be empty; but a young man in a black alpaca
coat, his lank hair parted over a round white face,
stepped from under the flap and advanced toward
her with a smile.
"Sister, your Saviour knows everything. Won't
you come in and lay your guilt before Him?" he
asked insinuatingly, putting his hand on her arm.
Charity started back and flushed. For a moment
she thought the evangelist must have heard a report
of the scene at Nettleton; then she saw the ab-
surdity of the supposition.
"I on'y wish't I had any to lay!" she retorted,
with one of her fierce flashes of self -derision; and
the young man murmured, aghast: "Oh, Sister,
don't speak blasphemy. . . ."
But she had jerked her arm out of his hold, and
was running up the branch road, trembling with the
fear of meeting a familiar face. Presently she was
out of sight of the village, and climbing into
the heart of the forest. She could not hope to do
the fifteen miles to the Mountain that afternoon;
but she knew of a place half-way to Hamblin where
she could sleep, and where no one would think of
looking for her. It was a little deserted house
on a slope in on'e of the lonely rifts of the hills.
She had seen it once, years before, when she had
gone on a nutting expedition to the grove of wal-
nuts below it. The party had taken refuge in the
house from a sudden mountain storm, and she re-
membered that Ben Sollas, who liked frightening
girls, had told them that it was said to be haunted.
She was growing faint and tired, for she had
eaten nothing since morning, and was not used
to walking so far. Her head felt light and she sat
down for a moment by the roadside. As she sat
there she heard the click of a bicycle-bell, and
started up to plunge back into the forest; but be-
fore she could move the bicycle had swept around
the curve of the road, and Harney, jumping off,
was approaching her with outstretched arms.
"Charity! What on earth are you doing here?"
She stared as if he were a vision, so startled by
the unexpectedness of his being there that no words
came to her.
"Where were you going? Had you forgotten
that I was coming?" he continued, trying to draw
her to him; but she shrank from his embrace.
"I was going away I don't want to see you I
want you should leave me alone," she broke out
He looked at her and his face grew grave, as
though the shadow of a premonition brushed it.
"Going away from me, Charity?"
"From everybody. I want you should leave me."
He stood glancing doubtfully up and down the
lonely forest road that stretched away into sun-
"Where were you going?"
"Home this way?"
She threw her head back defiantly. "To my
home up yonder : to the Mountain."
As she spoke she became aware of a change in
his face. He was no longer listening to her, he
was only looking at her, with the passionate ab-
sorbed expression she had seen in his eyes after
they had kissed on the stand at Nettleton. He was
the new Harney again, the Harney abruptly re-
vealed in that embrace, who seemed so penetrated
with the joy of her presence that he was utterly
careless of what she was thinking or feeling.
He caught her hands with a laugh. "How do you
suppose I found you?" he said gaily. He drew
out the little packet of his letters and flourished
them before her bewildered eyes.
"You dropped them, you imprudent young person
dropped them in the middle of the road, not far
from here; and the young man who is running
the Gospel tent picked them up just as I was
riding by." He drew back, holding her at arm's
length, and scrutinizing her troubled face with
the minute searching gaze of his short-sighted
"Did you really think you could run away from
me? You see you weren't meant to," he said; and
before she could answer he had kissed her again,
not vehemently, but tenderly, almost fraternally,
as if he had guessed her confused pain, and wanted
her to know he understood it. He wound his fin-
gers through hers.
"Come let's walk a little. I want to talk to
you. There's so much to say."
He spoke with a boy's gaiety, carelessly and
confidently, as if nothing had happened that could
shame or embarrass them; and for a moment, in
the sudden relief of her release from lonely pain,
she felt herself yielding to his mood. But he had
turned, and was drawing her back along the road
by which she had come. She stiffened herself
and stopped short.
"I won't go back," she said.
They looked at each other a moment in silence;
then he answered gently: "Very well: let's go the
other way, then."
She remained motionless, gazing silently at the
ground, and he went on: "Isn't there a house up
here somewhere a little abandoned house you
meant to show me some day?" Still she made no
answer, and he continued, in the same tone of
tender reassurance: "Let us go there now and sit
down and talk quietly." He took one of the hands
that hung by her side and pressed his lips to the
palm. "Do you suppose I'm going to let you send,
me away? Do you suppose I don't understand?"
The little old house its wooden walls sun-
bleached to a ghostly gray stood in an orchard
above the road. The garden palings had fallen,
but the broken gate dangled between its posts, and
the path to the house was marked by rose-bushes
run wild and hanging their small pale blossoms
above the crowding grasses. Slender pilasters and
an intricate fan-light framed the opening where the
door had hung; and the door itself lay rotting in
the grass, with an old apple-tree fallen across
Inside, also, wind and weather had blanched
everything to the same wan silvery tint : the house
was as dry and pure as the interior of a long-empty
shell. But it must have been exceptionally well
built, for the little rooms had kept something of
their human aspect : the wooden mantels with their
neat classic ornaments were in place, and the cor-
ners of one ceiling retained a light film of plaster
Harney had found an old bench at the back door
and dragged it into the house. Charity sat on it,
leaning her head against the wall in a state of
drowsy lassitude. He had guessed that she was
hungry and thirsty, and had brought her some tab-
lets of chocolate from his bicycle-bag, and filled his
drinking-cup from a spring in the orchard ; and now
he sat at her feet, smoking a cigarette, and looking
up at her without speaking. Outside, the afternoon
shadows were lengthening across the grass, and
through the empty window-frame that faced her she
saw the Mountain thrusting its dark mass against a
sultry sunset. It was time to go.
She stood up, and he sprang to his feet also,
and passed his arm through hers with an air of
authority. "Now, Charity, you're coming back
She looked at him and shook her head. "I ain't
ever going back. You don't know."
"What don't I know?" She was silent, and he
continued : "What happened on the wharf was hor-
rible it's natural you should feel as you do. But
it doesn't make any real difference: you can't be
hurt by such things. You must try to forget. And
you must try to understand that men . . . men
sometimes . . ."
"I know about men. That's why."
He coloured a little at the retort, as though it
had touched him in a way she did not sus-
"Well, then . . . you must know one has to make
allowances. . . . He'd been drinking. . . ."
"I know all that, too. I've seen him so before.
But he wouldn't have dared speak to me that way
if he hadn't . . ."
"Hadn't what ? What do you mean ?"
"Hadn't wanted me to be like those other
girls. ..." She lowered her voice and looked
away from him. "So's 't he wouldn't have to go
out. . . ."
Harney stared at her. For a moment he did not
seem to seize her meaning ; then his face grew dark.
"The damned hound! The villainous low hound!"
His wrath blazed up, crimsoning him to the tem-
ples. "I never dreamed good God, it's too vile,"
he broke off, as if his thoughts recoiled from the
"I won't never go back there," she repeated
"No " he assented.
There was a long interval of silence, during which
she imagined that he was searching her face for
more light on what she had revealed to him; and
a flush of shame swept over her.
"I know the way you must feel about me," she
broke out, ". . . telling you such things. . . ."
But once more, as she spoke, she became aware
that he was no longer listening. He came close
and caught her to him as if he were snatching her
from some imminent peril : his impetuous eyes were
in hers, and she could feel the hard beat of his
heart as he held her against it.
"Kiss me again like last night/' he said, push-
ing her hair back as if to draw her whole face up
into his kiss.
ONE afternoon toward the end of August a
group of girls sat in a room at Miss Hat ch-
ard's in a gay confusion of flags, turkey-red, blue
and white paper muslin, harvest sheaves and illu-
North Dormer was preparing for its Old Horn*
Week. That form of sentimental decentralization
was still in its early stages, and, precedents being
few, and the desire to set an example contagious,
the matter had become a subject of prolonged and
passionate discussion under Miss Hatchard's roof.
The incentive to the celebration had come rather
from those who had left North Dormer than from
those who had been obliged to stay there, and there
was some difficulty in rousing the village to the
proper state of enthusiasm. But Miss Hatchard's
pale prim drawing-room was the centre of constant
comings and goings from Hepburn, Nettleton,
Springfield and even more distant cities ; and when-
ever a visitor arrived he was led across the hall,
and treated to a glimpse of the group of girls deep
in their pretty preparations.
"All the old names ... all the old names. . . ."
Miss Hatchard would be heard, tapping across the
hall on her crutches. "Targatt . . . Sollas . . .
Fry : this is Miss Orma Fry sewing the stars on the
drapery for the organ-loft. Don't move, girls . . .
and this is Miss Ally Hawes, our cleverest needle-
woman . . . and Miss Charity Royall making our
garlands of evergreen. ... I like the idea of its
all being home-made, don't you? We haven't had
to call in any foreign talent: my young cousin
Lucius Harney, the architect you know he's up
here preparing a book on Colonial houses he's
taken the whole thing in hand so cleverly; but you
must come and see his sketch for the stage we're
going to put up in the Town Hall."
One of the first results of the Old Home Week
agitation had, in fact, been the reappearance of
Lucius Harney in the village street. He had been
vaguely spoken of as being not far off, but for some
weeks past no one had seen him at North Dormer,
and there was a recent report of his having left
Creston River, where he was said to have been stay-
ing, and gone away from the neighbourhood for
good. Soon after Miss Hatchard's return, however,
he came back to his old quarters in her house, and
began to take a leading part in the planning of
the festivities. He threw himself into the idea
with extraordinary good-humour, and was so prodi-
gal of sketches, and so inexhaustible in devices, that
he gave an immediate impetus to the rather languid
movement, and infected the whole village with his
"Lucius has such a feeling for the past that he has
roused us all to a sense of our privileges," Miss
Hatchard would say, lingering on the last word,
which was a favourite one. And before leading her
visitor back to the drawing-room she would repeat,
for the hundredth time, that she supposed he
thought it very bold of little North Dormer to start
up and have a Home Week of its own, when so
many bigger places hadn't thought of it yet; but
that, after all, Associations counted more than the
size of the population, didn't they? And of course
North Dormer was so full of Associations . . . his-
toric, literary (here a filial sigh for Honorius) and
ecclesiastical ... he knew about the old pewter
communion service imported from England in 1769,
she supposed? And it was so important, in a
wealthy materialistic age, to set the example of re-
verting to the old ideals, the family and the
homestead, and so on. This peroration usually
carried her half-way back across the hall, leav-
ing the girls to return to their interrupted activ-
The day on which Charity Royall was weaving
hemlock garlands for the procession was the last
before the celebration. When Miss Hatchard called
upon the North Dormer maidenhood to collaborate
in the festal preparations Charity had at first held
aloof; but it had been made clear to her that her
non-appearance might excite conjecture, and, re-
luctantly, she had joined the other workers. The
girls, at first shy and embarrassed, and puzzled as to
the exact nature of the projected commemoration,
had soon become interested in the amusing details
of their task, and excited by the notice they re-
ceived. They would not for the world have missed
their afternoons at Miss Hatchard' s, and, while
they cut out and sewed and draped and pasted,
their tongues kept up such an accompaniment to the
sewing-machine that Charity's silence sheltered it-
self unperceived under their chatter.
In spirit she was still almost unconscious of the
pleasant stir about her. Since her return to the
red house, on the evening of the day when Harney
had overtaken her on her way to the Mountain,
she had lived at North Dormer as if she were sus-
pended in the void. She had come back there be-
cause Harney, after appearing to agree to the im-
possibility of her doing so, had ended by persuad-
ing her that any other course would be madness.
She had nothing further to fear from Mr. RoyalL
Of this she had declared herself sure, though she
had failed to add, in his exoneration, that he had
twice offered to make her his wife. Her hatred of
him made it impossible, at the moment, for her to
say anything that might partly excuse him in Har-
ney 's eyes.
Harney, however, once satisfied of her security,
had found plenty of reasons for urging her to re-
turn. The first, and the most unanswerable, was
that she had nowhere else to go. But the one on
which he laid the greatest stress was that flight
would be equivalent to avowal. If as was almost
inevitable rumours of the scandalous scene at Net-
tleton should reach North Dormer, how else would
her disappearance be interpreted? Her guardian
had publicly taken away her character, and she im-
mediately vanished from his house. Seekers after
motives could hardly fail to draw an unkind con-
clusion. But if she came back at once, and was seen
leading her usual life, the incident was reduced to
its true proportions, as the outbreak of a drunken
old man furious at being surprised in disreputable
company. People would say that Mr. Royall had
insulted his wasd to justify himself, and the sordid
tale would fall into its place in the chronicle of his
Charity saw the force of the argument; but if
she acquiesced it was not so much because of that
as because it was Harney's wish. Since that eve-
ning in the deserted house she could imagine no
reason for doing or not doing anything except the
fact that Harney wished or did not wish it. All
her tossing contradictory impulses were merged in
a fatalistic acceptance of his will. It was not that
she felt in him any ascendency of character there
were moments already when she knew she was the
stronger but that all the rest of life had become
a mere cloudy rim about the central glory of their
passion. Whenever she stopped thinking about that
for a moment she felt as she sometimes did after
lying on the grass and staring up too long at the
sky; her eyes were so full of light that every thii
about her was a blur.
Each time that Miss Hatchard, in the course of
her periodical incursions into the work-room,
dropped an allusion to her young cousin, the archi-
tect, the effect was the same on Charity. The hem-
lock garland she was wearing fell to her knees and
she sat in a kind of trance. It was so manifestly
absurd that Miss Hatchard should talk of Harney
in that familiar possessive way, as if she had any
claim on him, or knew anything about him. She,
Charity Royall, was the only being on earth who
really knew him, knew him from the soles of his
feet to the rumpled crest of his hair, knew the shift-
ing lights in his eyes, and the inflexions of his voice,
and the things he liked and disliked, and everything
there was to know about him, as minutely and yet
unconsciously as a child knows the walls of the
room it wakes up in every morning. It was this
fact, which nobody about her guessed, or would
have understood, that made her life something apart
and inviolable, as if nothing had any power to hurt
or disturb her as long as her secret was safe.
The room in which the girls sat was the one which
had been Harney's bedroom. He had been sent up-
stairs, to make room for the Home Week workers ;
but the furniture had not been moved, and as Char-
ity sat there she had perpetually before her the
vision she had looked in on from the midnight gar-
den. The table at which Harney had sat was the
one about which the girls were gathered; and her
own seat was near the bed on which she had seen
him lying. Sometimes, when the others were not
looking, she bent over as if to pick up something,
and laid her cheek for a moment against the pillow.
Toward sunset the girls disbanded. Their work
was done, and the next morning at daylight the
draperies and garlands were to be nailed up, and
the illuminated scrolls put in place in the Town
Hall. The first guests were to drive over from
Hepburn in time for the midday banquet under a
tent in Miss Hatchard's field; and after that the
ceremonies were to begin. Miss Hatchard, pale
with fatigue and excitement, thanked her young
assistants, and stood in the porch, leaning on her
crutches and waving a farewell as she watched them
troop away down the street.
Charity had slipped off among the first; but at
the gate she heard Ally Hawes calling after her, and
"Will you come over now and try on your dress ?"
Ally asked, looking at her with wistful admira-
tion. "I want to be sure the sleeves don't ruck up
the same as they did yesterday."
Charity gazed at her with dazzled eyes. "Oh,
it's lovely," she said, and hastened away without
listening to Ally's protest. She wanted her dress
to be as pretty as the other girls' wanted it, in
fact, to outshine the rest, since she was to take part
in the "exercises" but she had no time just then
to fix her mind on such matters. . . .
She sped up the street to the library, of which she
had the key about her neck. From the passage at
the back she dragged forth a bicycle, and guided
it to the edge of the street. She looked about to
see if any of the girls were approaching; but they
had drifted away together toward the Town Hall,
and she sprang into the saddle and turned toward
the Creston road. There was an almost continual
descent to Creston, and with her feet against the
pedals she floated through the still evening air like
one of the hawks she had often watched slanting
downward on motionless wings. Twenty minutes
from the time when she had left Miss Hatchard's
door she was turning up the wood-road on which
Harney had overtaken her on the day of her flight ;
and a few minutes afterward she had jumped from
her bicycle at the gate of the deserted house.
In the gold-powdered sunset it looked more than
ever like some frail shell dried and washed by
many seasons ; but at the back, whither Charity ad-
vanced, drawing her bicycle after her, there were
signs of recent habitation. A rough door made
of boards hung in the kitchen doorway, and push-
ing it open she entered a room furnished in primi-
tive camping fashion. In the window was a table,
also made of boards, with an earthenware jar
holding a big bunch of wild asters. Two canvas
chairs stood near by, and in one corner was a mat-
tress with a Mexican blanket over it.
The room was empty, and leaning her bicycle
against the house Charity clambered up the slope
and sat down on a rock under an old apple-tree.
The air was perfectly still, and from where she
sat she would be able to hear the tinkle of a bicycle-
bell a long way down the road. . . .
She was always glad when she got to the little
house before Harney. She liked to have time to
take in .every detail of its secret sweetness the
shadows of the apple-trees swaying on the grass,
the old walnuts rounding their domes below
road, the meadows sloping westward in the after-
noon light before his first kiss blotted it all out.
Everything unrelated to the hours spent in that
tranquil place was as faint as the remembrance
of a dream. The only reality was the wondrous un-
folding of her new self, the reaching out to the
light of all her contracted tendrils. She had lived
all her life among people whose sensibilities seemed
to have withered for lack of use; and more won-
derful, at first, than Harney's endearments were
the words that were a part of them. She had always
thought of love as something confused and furtive,
and he made it as bright and open as the sum-
On the morrow of the day when she had shown
him the way to the deserted house he had packed
up and left Creston River for Boston; but at the
first station he had jumped off the train with a
hand-bag and scrambled up into the hills. For two
golden rainless August weeks he had camped in the
house, getting eggs and milk from the solitary farm
in the valley, where no one knew him, and doing
his cooking over a spirit-lamp. He got up every
day with the sun, took a plunge in a brown pool
he knew of, and spent long hours lying in the
scented hemlock-woods above the house, or wan-
dering along the yoke of the Eagle Ridge, far above
the misty blue valleys that swept away east and west
between the endless hills. And in the afternoon
Charity came to him.
With part of what was left of her savings she
had hired a bicycle for a month, and every day
after dinner, as soon as her guardian started to
his office, she hurried to the library, got out her
bicycle, and flew down the Creston road. She
knew that Mr. Royall, like everyone else in North
Dormer, was perfectly aware of her acquisition:
possibly he, as well as the rest of the village,
knew what use she made of it. She did not care:
she felt him to be so powerless that if he had
questioned her she would probably have told him
the truth. But they had never spoken to each other
since the night on the wharf at Nettleton. He
had returned to North Dormer only on the third
day after that encounter, arriving just as Charity
and Verena were sitting down to supper. He had
drawn up his chair, taken his napkin from the side-
board drawer, pulled it out of its ring, and seated
himself as unconcernedly as if he had come in from
his usual afternoon session at Carrick Fry's ; and the
long habit of the household made it seem almost
natural that Charity should not so much as raise
her eyes when he entered. She had simply let him
understand that her silence was not accidental by
leaving the table while he was still eating, and
going up without a word to shut herself into her
room. After that he formed the habit of talking
loudly and genially to Verena whenever Charity
was in the room; but otherwise there was no ap-
parent change in their relations.
She did not think connectedly of these things
while she sat waiting for Harney, but they re-
mained in her mind as a sullen background against
which her short hours with him flamed out like for-^
est fires. Nothing else mattered, neither the good
nor the bad, or what might have seemed so before
she knew him. He had caught her up and carried
her away into a new world, from which, at stated
hours, the ghost of her came back to perform cer-
tain customary acts, but all so thinly and insub-
stantially that she sometimes wondered that the peo-
ple she went about among could see her. . . .
Behind the swarthy Mountain the sun had gone
down in waveless gold. From a pasture up the
slope a tinkle of cow-bells sounded ; a puff of smoke
hung over the farm in the valley, trailed on the pure
air and was gone. For a few minutes, in the clear
light that is all shadow, fields and woods were out-
lined with an unreal precision; then the twilight
blotted them out, and the little house turned gray
and spectral under its wizened apple-branches.
Charity's heart contracted. The first fall of night
after a day of radiance often gave her a sense of
hidden menace: it was like looking out over the
world as it would be when love had gone from it.
She wondered if some day she would sit in that
same place and watch in vain for her lover. . . .
His bicycle-bell sounded down the lane, and in
a minute she was at the gate and his eyes were
laughing in hers. They walked back through the
long grass, and pushed open the door behind the
house. The room at first seemed quite dark and
they had to grope their way in hand in hand.
Through the window-frame the sky looked light by
contrast, and above the black mass of asters
in the earthern jar one white star glimmered like
"There was such a lot to do at the last minute,"
Harney was explaining, "and I had to drive down
to Creston to meet someone who has come to stay
with my cousin for the show/'
He had his arms about her, and his kisses were in
her hair and on her lips. Under his touch things
deep down in her struggled to the light and sprang
up like flowers in sunshine. She twisted her fingers
into his, and they sat down side by side on the
improvised couch. She hardly heard his excuses
for being late: in his absence a thousand doubts
tormented her, but as soon as he appeared she ceased
to wonder where he had come from, what had de-
layed him, who had kept him from her. It seemed
as if the places he had been in, and the people he
had been with, must cease to exist when he left
them, just as her own life was suspended in his
He continued, now, to talk to her volubly and
gaily, deploring his lateness, grumbling at the de-
mands on his time, and good-humouredly mimick-
ing Miss Hatchard's benevolent agitation. "She
hurried off Miles to ask Mr. Royall to speak at the
Town Hall tomorrow: I didn't know till it was
done." Charity was silent, and he added: "After
all, perhaps it's just as well. No one else could
have done it."
Charity made no answer : she did not care what
part her guardian played in the morrow's cere-
monies. Like all the other figures peopling her
meagre world he had grown non-existent to her.
She had even put off hating him.
"Tomorrow I shall only see you from far off/'
Harney continued. "But in the evening there'll
be the dance in the Town Hall. Do you want me
to promise not to dance with any other girl?"
Any other girl? Were there any others? She
had forgotten even that peril, so enclosed did he
and she seem in their secret world. Her heart gave
a frightened jerk.
He laughed and took her in his arms. "You
goose not even if they're hideous?"
He pushed the hair from her forehead, bending
her face back, as his way was, and leaning over so
that his head loomed black between her eyes and
the paleness of the sky, in which the white star
floated . . .
Side by side they sped back along the dark wood-
road to the village. A late moon was rising, full
orbed and fiery, turning the mountain ranges from
fluid gray to a massive blackness, and making the
upper sky so light that the stars looked as faint as
their own reflections in water. At the edge of the
wood, half a mile from North Dormer, Harney
jumped from his bicycle, took Charity in his arms
for a last kiss, and then waited while she went on
They were later than usual, and instead of tak-
ing the bicycle to the library she propped it against
the back of the wood-shed and entered the kitchen
of the red house. Verena sat there alone; when
Charity came in she looked at her with mild im-
penetrable eyes and then took a plate and a glass
of milk from the shelf and set them silently on the
table. Charity nodded her thanks, and sitting down
fell hungrily upon her piece of pie and emptied the
glass. Her face burned with her quick flight
through the night, and her eyes were dazzled by
the twinkle of the kitchen lamp. She felt like a
night-bird suddenly caught and caged.
"He ain't come back since supper," Verena said.
"He's down to the Hall."
Charity took no notice. Her soul was still wing-
ing through the forest. She washed her plate and
tumbler, and then felt her way up the dark stairs.
When she opened her door a wonder arrested
her. Before going out she had closed her shutters
against the af ternon heat, but they had swung partly
open, and a bar of moonlight, crossing the room,
rested on her bed and showed a dress of China silk
laid out on it in virgin whiteness. Charity had
spent more than she could afford on the dress, which
was to surpass those of all the other girls; she had
wanted to let North Dormer see that she was wor-
thy of Harney's admiration. Above the dress, fold-
ed on the pillow, was the white veil which the young
women who took part in the exercises were to wear
under a wreath of asters ; and beside the veil a pair
of slim white satin shoes that Ally had produced
from an old trunk in which she stored mysterious
Charity stood gazing at all the outspread white-
ness. It recalled a vision that had come to her in
the night after her first meeting with Harney. She
no longer had such visions . . . warmer splendours
had displaced them . . . but it was stupid of Ally
to have paraded all those white things on her bed,
exactly as Hattie Targatt's wedding dress from
Springfield had been spread out for the neighbours
to see when she married Tom Fry. ...
Charity took up the satin shoes and looked at them
curiously. By day, no doubt, they would appear
a little worn, but in the moonlight they seemed
carved of ivory. She sat down on the floor to try
them on, and they fitted her perfectly, though when
she stood up she lurched a little on the high heels.
She looked down at her feet, which the graceful
mould of the slippers had marvellously arched and
narrowed. She had never seen such shoes before,
even in the shop-windows at Nettleton . . . never,
except . . . yes, once, she had noticed a pair of the
same shape on Annabel Balch.
A blush of mortification swept over her. Ally
sometimes sewed for Miss Balch when that bril-
liant being descended on North Dormer, and no
doubt she picked up presents of cast-off clothing : the
treasures in the mysterious trunk all came from the
people she worked for. There could be no doubt
that the white slippers were Annabel Balch's. . . .
As she stood there, staring down moodily at her
feet, she heard the triple click-click-click of a bicycle-
bell under her window. It was Harney's secret
signal as he passed on his way home. She stumbled
to the window on her high heels, flung open the
shutters and leaned out. He waved to her and sped
by, his black shadow dancing merrily ahead of him
down the empty moonlit road ; and she leaned there
watching him till he vanished under the Hatchard
THE Town Hall was crowded and exceed-
ingly hot. As Charity marched into it,
third in the white muslin file headed by Orma
Fry, she was conscious mainly of the brilliant ef-
fect of the wreathed columns framing the green-
carpeted stage toward which she was moving and
of the unfamiliar faces turning from the front rows
to watch the,advance of the procession.
But it was all a bewildering blur of eyes and
colours till she found herself standing at the back
of the stage, her great bunch of asters and golden-
rod held well in front of her, and answering the
nervous glance of Lambert Sollas, the organist from
Mr. Miles's church, who had come up from Net-
tleton to play the harmonium, and sat behind it,
running his conductor's eye over the fluttered girls.
A moment later Mr. Miles, pink and twinkling,
emerged from the background, as if buoyed up on
his broad white gown, and briskly dominated the
bowed heads in the front rows. He prayed ener-
getically and briefly and then retired, and a fierce
nod from Lambert Sollas warned the girls that
they were to follow at once with "Home, Sweet
Home." It was a joy to Charity to sing : it seemed
as though, for the first time, her secret rapture
might burst from her and flash its defiance at the
world. All the glow in her blood, the breath of
the summer earth, the rustle of the forest, the fresh
call of birds at sunrise, and the brooding midday
languors, seemed to pass into her untrained voice,
lifted and led by the sustaining chorus.
And then suddenly the song was over, and after
an uncertain pause, during which Miss Hatchard's
pearl-grey gloves started a furtive signalling down
the hall, Mr. Royall, emerging in turn, ascended
the steps of the stage and appeared behind the
flower-wreathed desk. He passed close to Charity,
and she noticed that his gravely set face wore the
look of majesty that used to awe and fascinate her
childhood. His frock-coat had been carefully
brushed and ironed, and the ends of his narrow
black tie were so nearly even that the tying must
have cost him a protracted struggle. His appear-
ance struck her all the more because it was the first
time she had looked him full in the face since the
night at Nettleton, and nothing in his grave an
pressive demeanour revealed a trace of the lam-
entable figure on the wharf.
He stood a moment behind the desk, resting his
finger-tips against it, and bending slightly toward
his audience; then he straightened himself and be-
At first she paid no heed to what he was saying :
only fragments of sentences, sonorous quotations,
allusions to illustrious men, including the obligatory
tribute to Honorius Hatchard, drifted past her in-
attentive ears. She was trying to discover Harney
among the notable people in the front row; but he
was nowhere near Miss Hatchard, who, crowned
by a pearl-grey hat that matched her gloves, sat
just below the desk, supported by Mrs. Miles and
an important-looking unknown lady. Charity was
near one end of the stage, and from where she sat
the other end of the first row of seats was cut off
by the screen of foliage masking the harmonium.
The effort io see Harney around the corner of the
screen, or through its interstices, made her uncon-
scious of everything else; but the effort was unsuc-
cessful, and gradually she found her attention ar-
rested by her guardian's discourse.
She had never heard him speak in public before,
but she was familiar with the rolling music of his
voice when he read aloud, or held forth to the
selectmen about the stove at Carrick Fry's. Today
his inflections were richer and graver than she had
ever known them: he spoke slowly, with pauses
that seemed to invite his hearers to silent participa-
tion in his thought; and Charity perceived a light
of response in their faces.
He was nearing the end of his address . . .
"Most of you," he said, "most of you who have re-
turned here today, to take contact with this little
place for a brief hour, have come only on a pious
pilgrimage, and will go back presently to busy cities
and lives full of larger duties. But that is not the
only way of coming back to North Dormer. Some
of us, who went out from here in our youth . . .
went out, like you, to busy cities and larger duties
. . . have come back in another way come back
for good. I am one of those, as many of you
know. ..." He paused, and there was a sense
of suspense in the listening hall. "My history is
without interest, but it has its lesson : not so much
for those of you who have already made your lives
in other places, as for the young men who are
perhaps planning even now to leave these quiet hills
and go down into the struggle. Things they cannot
foresee may send some of those young men back
some day to the little township and the old home-
stead: they may come back for good. ..." He
looked about him, and repeated gravely : "For good.
There's the point I want to make . . . North Dor-
mer is a poor little place, almost lost in a mighty
landscape : perhaps, by this time, it might have been
a bigger place, and more in scale with the landscape,
if those who had to come back had come with
that feeling in their minds that they wanted to
come back for good . . . and not for bad ... or
just for indifference. . . .
"Gentlemen, let us look at things as they are.
Some of us have come back to our native town be-
cause we'd failed to get on elsewhere. One way
or other, things had gone wrong with us ...
what we'd dreamed of hadn't come true. But the
fact that we had failed elsewhere is no reason why
we should fail here. Our very experiments in larger
places, even if they were unsuccessful, ought to
have helped us to make North Dormer a larger
place . . . and you young men who are preparing
even now to follow the call of ambition, and turn
your back on the old homes well, let me say this
to you, that if ever you do come back to them it's
worth while to come back to them for their good.
. . . And to do that, you must keep on loving
them while you're away. from them; and even if
you come back against your will and thinking it's
all a bitter mistake of Fate or Providence you
must try to make the best of it, and to make the
best of your old town; and after a while well,
ladies and gentlemen, I give you my recipe for
what it's worth; after a while, I believe you'll be
able to say, as I can say today: Tm glad I'm here/
Believe me, all of you, the best way to help the
places we live in is to be glad we live there."
He stopped, and a murmur of emotion and sur-
prise ran through the audience. It was not in the
least what they had expected, but it moved them
more than what they had expected would have
moved them. "Hear, hear!" a voice cried out in
the middle of the hall. An outburst of cheers
caught up the cry, and as they subsided Charity
heard Mr. Miles saying to someone near him:
"That was a man talking " He wiped his spec-
Mr. Royall had stepped back from the desk, and
taken his seat in the row of chairs in front of the
harmonium. A dapper white-haired gentleman a
distant Hatchard succeeded him behind the golden-
rod, and began to say beautiful things about the old
oaken bucket, patient white-haired mothers, and
where the boys used to go nutting . . . and Charity
began again to search for Harney. . . .
Suddenly Mr. Royall pushed back his seat, and
one of the maple branches in front of the
harmonium collapsed with a crash. It uncovered the
end of the first row and in one of the seats Charity
saw Harney, and in the next a lady whose face
was turned toward him, and almost hidden by the
brim of her drooping hat. Charity did not need
to see the face. She knew at a glance the slim
figure, the fair hair heaped up under the hat-brim,
the long pale wrinkled gloves with bracelets slip-
ping over them. At the fall of the branch Miss
Balch turned her head toward the stage, and in
her pretty thin-lipped smile there lingered the re-
flection of something her neighbour had been whis-
pering to her. . . .
Someone came forward to replace the fallen
branch, and Miss Balch and Harney were once more
hidden. But to Charity the vision of their two
faces had blotted out everything. In a flash they
had shown her the bare reality of her situation.
Behind the frail screen of her lover's caresses was
the whole inscrutable mystery of his life: his rela-
tions with other people with other women his
opinions, his prejudices, his principles, the net of in-
fluences and interests and ambitions in which every
man's life is entangled. Of all these she knew
nothing, except what he had told her of his archi-
tectural aspirations. She had always dimly guessed
him to be in touch with important people, involved
in complicated relations but she felt it all to be
so far beyond her understanding that the whole
subject hung like a luminous mist on the farthest
verge of her thoughts. In the foreground, hiding
all else, there was the glow of his presence, the
light and shadow of his face, the way his short-
sighted eyes, at her approach, widened and deepened
as if to draw her down into them; and, above all,
the flush of youth and tenderness in which his words
Now she saw him detached from her, drawn back
into the unknown, and whispering to another girl
things that provoked the same smile of mischievous
complicity he had so often called to her own lips.
The feeling possessing her was not one of jealousy :
she was too sure of his love. It was rather a terror
of the unknown, of all the mysterious attractions
that must even now be dragging him away from
her, and of her own powerlessness to contend with
She had given him all she had but what was it
compared to the other gifts life held for him?
She understood now the case of girls like herself
to whom this kind of thing happened. They gave
all they had, but their all was not enough : it could
not buy more than a few moments. . . .
The heat had grown suffocating she felt it de-
scend on her in smothering waves, and the faces
in the crowded hall began to dance like the pictures
flashed on the screen at Nettleton. For an instant
Mr. RoyalFs countenance detached itself from the
general blur. He had resumed his place in front
of the harmonium, and sat close to her, his eyes
on her face; and his look seemed to pierce to the
very centre of her confused sensations. . . . A feel-
ing of physical sickness rushed over her and then
deadly apprehension. The light of the fiery hours
in the little house swept back on her in a glare of
fear. . . .
She forced herself to look away from her guard-
ian, and became aware that the oratory of the
Hatchard cousin had ceased, and that Mr. Miles
was again flapping his wings. Fragments of his
peroration floated through her bewildered brain.
. . . "A rich harvest of hallowed memories. . . .
A sanctified hour to which, in moments of trial, your
thoughts will prayerfully return. . . . And now, O
Lord, let us humbly and fervently give thanks for
this blessed day of reunion, here in the old home
to which we have come back from so far. Preserve
it to us, O Lord, in times to come, in all its homely
sweetness in the kindliness and wisdom of its old
people, in the courage and industry of its young
men, in the piety and purity of this group of in-
nocent girls " He flapped a white wing in their
direction, and at the same moment Lambert Sollas,
with his fierce nod, struck the opening bars of
"Auld Lang Syne." . . . Charity stared straight
ahead of her and then, dropping her flowers, fell
face downward at Mr. Royall's feet.
NORTH DORMER'S celebration naturally
included the villages attached to its town-
ship, and the festivities were to radiate over
the whole group, from Dormer and the two
Crestons to Hamblin, the lonely hamlet on the north
slope of the Mountain where the first snow always
fell. On the third day there were speeches and
ceremonies at Creston and Creston River; on the
fourth the principal performers were to be driven
in buck-boards to Dormer and Hamblin.
It was on the fourth day that Charity returned
for the first time to the little house. She had not
seen Harney alone since they had parted at the
wood's edge the night before the celebrations be-
gan. In the interval she had passed through many
moods, but for the moment the terror which had
seized her in the Town Hall had faded to the edge
of consciousness. She had fainted because the hall
was stiflingly hot, and because the speakers had
gone on and on. ... Several other people had
been affected by the heat, and had had to leave be-
fore the exercises were over. There had been thun-
der in the air all the afternoon, and everyone said
afterward that something ought to have been done
to ventilate the hall. . . .
At the dance that evening where she had gone
reluctantly, and only because she feared to stay
away, she had sprung back into instant reassurance.
As soon as she entered she had seen Harney wait-
ing for her, and he had come up with kind gay
eyes, and swept her off in a waltz. Her feet were
full of music, and though her only training had
been with the village youths she had no difficulty
in tuning her steps to his. As they circled about the
floor all her vain fears dropped from her, and she
even forgot that she was probably dancing in An-
nabel Balch's slippers.
''^^ the waltz was over Harney, with a last
hand-clasp, left her to meet Miss Hatchard and
'Miss Balch, who were just entering. Charity had
a moment of anguish as Miss Balch appeared ; but it
did not last. The triumphant fact of her own
greater beauty, and of Harney's sense of it, swept
her apprehensions aside. Miss Balch, in an unbe-
coming dress, looked sallow and pinched, and Char-
ity fancied there was a worried expression in her
pale-lashed eyes. She took a seat near Miss Hatch-
ard and it was presently apparent that she did not
mean to dance. Charity did not dance often either.
Harney explained to her that Miss Hatchard had
begged him to give each of the other girls a turn;
but he went through the form of asking Charity's
permission each time he led one out, and that gave
her a sense of secret triumph even completer than
when she was whirling about the room with
him. . . .
She was thinking of all this as she waited for
him in the deserted house. The late afternoon was
sultry, and she had tossed aside her hat and
stretched herself at full length on the Mexican
blanket because it was cooler indoors than under
the trees. She lay with her arms folded beneath
her head, gazing out at the shaggy shoulder of the
Mountain. The sky behind it was full of the splin-
tered glories of the descending sun, and before long
she expected to hear Harney's bicycle-bell in the
lane. He had bicycled to Hamblin, instead of driv-
ing there with his cousin and her friends, so that
he might be able to make his escape earlier and
stop on the way back at the deserted house, which
was on the road to Hamblin. They had smiled to-
gether at the joke of hearing the crowded buck-
boards roll by on the return, while they lay close
in their hiding above the road. Such childish
triumphs still gave her a sense of reckless security.
Nevertheless she had not wholly forgotten the
vision of fear that had opened before her in the
Town Hall. The sense of kstingness was gone
from her and every moment with Harney would
now be ringed with doubt.
The Mountain was turning purple against a fiery
sunset from which it seemed to be divided by a
knife-edge of quivering light; and above this wall
of flame the whole sky was a pure pale green, like
some cold mountain lake in shadow. Charity lay
gazing up at it, and watching for the first white
star. . . .
Her eyes were still fixed on the upper reaches
of the sky when she became aware that a shadow
had flitted across the glory-flooded room: it must
have been Harney passing the window against the
sunset. . . . She half raised herself, and then
dropped back on her folded arms. The combs had
slipped from her hair, and it trailed in a rough
dark rope across her breast. She lay quite still,
a sleepy smile on her lips, her indolent lids half
shut. There was a fumbling at the padlock and she
called out: "Have you slipped the chain?" The
door opened, and Mr. Royall walked into the room.
She started up, sitting back against the cushions,
and they looked at each other without speaking.
Then Mr. Royall closed the door-latch and advanced
a few steps.
Charity jumped to her feet. "What have you
come for?" she stammered.
The last glare of the sunset was on her guardian's
face, which looked ash-coloured in the yellow radi-
"Because I knew you were here," he answered
She had become conscious of the hair hanging
loose across her breast, and it seemed as though
she could not speak to him till she had set herself
in order. She groped for her combs, and tried to
fasten up the coil. Mr. Royall silently watched her.
"Charity," he said, "he'll be here in a minute.
Let me talk to you first."
"You've got no right to talk to me. I can do
what I please."
"Yes. What is it you mean to do?"
"I needn't answer that, or anything else."
He had glanced away, and stood looking curiously
about the illuminated room. Purple asters and red
maple-leaves filled the jar on the table; on a shelf
against the wall stood a lamp, the kettle, a little pile
of cups and saucers. The canvas chairs were
grouped about the table.
"So this is where you meet/' he said.
His tone was quiet and controlled, and the fact
disconcerted her. She had been ready to give him
violence for violence, but this calm acceptance of
things as they were left her without a weapon.
"See here, Charity you're always telling me
I've got no rights over you. There might be two
ways of looking at that but I ain't going to argue
it. All I know is I raised you as good as I could,
and meant fairly by you always except once, for
a bad half-hour. There's no justice in weighing
that half -hour against the rest, and you know it. If
you hadn't, you wouldn't have gone on living under
my roof. Seems to me the fact of your doing that
gives me some sort of a right; the right to try and
keep you out of trouble. I'm not asking you to
consider any other."
She listened in silence, and then gave a slight
laugh. "Better wait till I'm in trouble," she said.
He paused a moment, as if weighing her words.
"Is that all your answer?"
"Yes, that's all."
"Well I'll wait."
He turned away slowly, but as he did so the thing
she had been waiting for happened ; the door opened
again and Harney entered.
He stopped short with a face of astonishment,
and then, quickly controlling himself, went up to
Mr. Royall with a frank look.
"Have you come to see me, sir?" he said coolly,
throwing his cap on the table with an air of pro-
Mr. Royall again looked slowly about the room ;
then his eyes turned to the young man.
"Is this your house?" he inquired.
Harney laughed: "Well as much as it's any-
body's. I come here to sketch occasionally."
"And to receive Miss Royall's visits?"
"When she does me the honour "
"Is this the home you propose to bring her to
when you get married ?"
There was an immense and oppressive silence.
Charity, quivering with anger, started forward, and
then stood silent, too humbled for speech. Harney's
eyes had dropped under the old man's gaze; but
he raised them presently, and looking steadily at
Mr. Royall, said: "Miss Royall is not a child.
Isn't it rather absurd to talk of her as if she were?
I believe she considers herself free to come and
go as she pleases, without any questions from any-
one/' He paused and added: "I'm ready to an-
swer any she wishes to ask me."
Mr. Royall turned to her. "Ask him when he's
going to marry you, then " There was another
silence, and he laughed in his turn a broken laugh,
with a scraping sound in it. "You darsn't!" he
shouted out with sudden passion. He went close
up to Charity, his right arm lifted, not in menace
but in tragic exhortation.
"You darsn't, and you know it and you know
why !" He swung back again upon the young man.
"And you know why you ain't asked her to marry
you, and why you don't mean to. It's because you
hadn't need to ; nor any other man either. I'm the
only one that was fool enough not to know that;
and I guess nobody'll repeat my mistake not in
Eagle County, anyhow. They all know what she
is, and what she came from. They all know her
mother was a woman of the town from Nettle-
ton, that followed one of those Mountain fellows up
to his place and lived there with him like a heathen.
I saw her there sixteen years ago, when I went to
bring this child down. I went to save her from the
kind of life her mother was leading but I'd better
have left her in the kennel she came from. ..."
He paused and stared darkly at the two young
people, and out beyond them, at the menac-
ing Mountain with its rim of fire; then he sat
down beside the table on which they had so often
spread their rustic supper, and covered his face
with his hands. Harney leaned in the window,
a frown on his face: he was twirling between his
fingers a small package that dangled from a loop
of string. . . . Charity heard Mr. Royall draw a
hard breath or two, and his shoulders shook a
little. Presently he stood up and walked across
the room. He did not look again at the young
people: they saw him feel his way to the door
.and fumble for the latch; and then he went out
into the darkness.
After he had gone there was a long silence. Char-
ity waited for Harney to speak; but he seemed at
.first not to find anything to say. At length he
broke out irrelevantly: "I wonder how he found
She made no answer and he tossed down the
package he had been holding, and went up to her.
"I'm so sorry, dear . . . that this should have
happened. . . ."
She threw her head back proudly. "I ain't ever
been sorry not a minute!"
She waited to be caught into his arms, but he
turned away from her irresolutely. The last glow
was gone from behind the Mountain. Everything
in the room had turned grey and indistinct, and
an autumnal dampness crept up from the hollow
below the orchard, laying its cold touch on their
flushed faces. Harney walked the length of the
room, and then turned back and sat down at the
"Come," he said imperiously.
She sat down beside him, and he untied the string
about the package and spread out a pile of sand-
"I stole them from the love-feast at Hamblin,"
he said with a laugh, pushing them over to her.
She laughed too, and took one, and began to eat.
"Didn't you make the tea?"
"No," she said. "I forgot "
"Oh, well it's too late to boil the water now."
He said nothing more, and sitting opposite to each
other they went on silently eating the sandwiches.
Darkness had descended in the little room, and Har-
ney's face was a dim blur to Charity. Suddenly
he leaned across the table and laid his hand on
"I shall have to go off for a while a month
or two, perhaps to arrange some things ; and then
I'll come back . - , and we'll get married."
His voice seemed like a stranger's: nothing was
left in it of the vibrations she knew. Her hand
lay inertly under his, and she left it there, and
raised her head, trying to answer him. But the
words died in her throat. They sat motionless,
in their attitude of confident endearment, as if some
strange death had surprised them. At length Har-
ney sprang to his feet with a slight shiver. "God !
it's damp we couldn't have come here much
longer." He went to the shelf, took down a tin
candle-stick and lit the candle; then he propped
an unhinged shutter against the empty window-
frame and put the candle on the table. It threw
up a queer shadow on his frowning forehead, and
made the smile on his lips a grimace.
"But it's been good, though, hasn't it, Charity?
. . . What's the matter why do you stand there
staring at me? Haven't the days here been good?"
He went up to her and caught her to his breast.
"And there'll be others lots of others . . . jol-
lier . . . even jollier . . . won't there, darling?'*
He turned her head back, feeling for the curve
of her throat below the ear, and kissing here there,
and on the hair and eyes and lips. She clung to
him desperately, and as he drew her to his knees on
the couch she felt as if they were being sucked down
together into some bottomless abyss.
THAT night, as usual, they said good-bye at
the wood's edge.
Harney was to leave the next morning early.
He asked Charity to say nothing of their plans
till his return, and, strangely even to herself, she
was glad of the postponement. A leaden weight
of shame hung on her, benumbing every other sen-
sation, and she bade him good-bye with hardly a
sign of emotion. His reiterated promises to return
seemed almost wounding. She had no doubt that
he intended to come back; her doubts were far
deeper and less definable.
Since the fanciful vision of the future that had
flitted through her imagination at their first meet-
ing she had hardly ever thought of his marrying her.
She had not had to put the thought from her mind ;
it had not been there. If ever she looked ahead
she felt instinctively that the gulf between them
was too deep, and that the bridge their passion had
flung across it was as insubstantial as a rainbow.
But she seldom looked ahead; each day was so
rich that it absorbed her. . . . Now her first feel-
ing was that everything would be different, and that
she herself would be a different being to Harney.
Instead of remaining separate and absolute, she
would be compared with other people, and unknown
things would be expected of her. She was too
proud to be afraid, but the freedom of her spirit
drooped. . . .
Harney had not fixed any date for his return;
he had said he would have to look about first, and
settle things. He had promised to write as soon
as there was anything definite to say, and had left
her his address, and asked her to write also. But
the address frightened her. It was in New York,
at a club with a long name in Fifth Avenue: it
seemed to raise an insurmountable barrier between
them. Once or twice, in the first days, she got out
a sheet of paper, and sat looking at it, and trying
to think what to say; but she had the feeling that
her letter would never reach its destination. She
had never written to anyone farther away than
Harney's first letter came after he had been gone
about ten days. It was tender but grave, and bore
no resemblance to the gay little notes he had sent
her by the freckled boy from Creston River. He
spoke positively of his intention of coming back,
but named no date, and reminded Charity of their
agreement that their plans should not be divulged
till he had had time to "settle things." When that
would be he could not yet foresee; but she could
count on his returning as soon as the way was
She read the letter with a strange sense of its
coming from immeasurable distances and having
lost most of its meaning on the way; and in reply
she sent him a coloured post-card of Creston Falls,
on which she wrote: "With love from Charity."
She felt the pitiful inadequacy of this, and under-
stood, with a sense of despair, that in her inability
to express herself she must give him an impres-
sion of coldness and reluctance; but she could not
help it. She could not forget that he had never
spoken to her of marriage till Mr. Royall had forced
the word from his lips; though she had not had
the strength to shake off the spell that bound her
to him she had lost all spontaneity of feeling, and
seemed to herself to be passively awaiting a fate she
could not avert.
She had not seen Mr. Royall on her return to
the red house. The morning after her parting from
Harney, when she came down from her room, Ve-
rena told her that her guardian had gone off to
Worcester and Portland. It was the time of year
when he usually reported to the insurance agencies
he represented, and there was nothing unusual in
his departure except its suddenness. She thought
little about him, except to be glad he was not
there. . . .
She kept to herself for the first days, while
North Dormer was recovering from its brief plunge
into publicity, and the subsiding agitation left her
unnoticed. But the faithful Ally could not be long
avoided. For the first few days after the close of
the Old Home Week festivities Charity escaped her
by roaming the hills all day when she was not
at her post in the library; but after that a period
of rain set in, and one pouring afternoon Ally,
sure that she would find her friend indoors, came
around to the red house with her sewing.
The two girls sat upstairs in Charity's room.
Charity, her idle hands in her lap, was sunk in a
kind of leaden dream, through which she was only
half-conscious of Ally, who sat opposite her in a
low rush-bottomed chair, her work pinned to her
knee, and her thin lips pursed up as she bent above it.
"It was my idea running a ribbon through the
gauging/' she said proudly, drawing back to con-
template the blouse she was trimming. "It's for
Miss Balch : she was awfully pleased." She paused
and then added, with a queer tremor in her piping
voice : "I darsn't have told her I got the idea from
one I saw on Julia."
Chanty raised her eyes listlessly. "Do you still
see Julia sometimes?"
Ally reddened, as if the allusion had escaped her
unintentionally. "Oh, it was a long time ago I
seen her with those gaugings. ..."
Silence fell again, and Ally presently continued:
"Miss Balch left me a whole lot of things to do
over this time."
"Why has she gone?" Chanty inquired with an
inner start of apprehension.
"Didn't you know? She went off the morning
after they had the celebration at Hamblin. I seen
her drive by early with Mr. Harney."
There was another silence, measured by the steady
tick of the rain against the window, and, at inter-
vals, by the snipping sound of Ally's scissors.
Ally gave a meditative laugh. "Do you know
what she told me before she went away? She told
me she was going to send for me to come over to
Springfield and make some things for her wed-
Charity again lifted her heavy lids and stared at
Ally's pale pointed face, which moved to and fro
above her moving fingers.
"Is she going to get married ?"
Ally let the blouse sink to her knee, and sat gazing
at it. Her lips seemed suddenly dry, and she moist-
ened them a little with her tongue.
"Why, I presume so ... from what she said.
. . . Didn't you know?"
"Why should I know?"
Ally did not answer. She bent above the blouse,
and began picking out a basting thread with the
point of the scissors.
"Why should I know?" Charity repeated
"I didn't know but what . . . folks here say she's
engaged to Mr. Harney."
Charity stood up with a laugh, and stretched her
arms lazily above her head.
"If all the people got married that folks say are
going to you'd have your time full making wedding-
dresses/' she said ironically.
"Why don't you believe it?" Ally ventured.
"It wouldn't make it true if I did nor prevent
it if I didn't."
"That's so. ... I only know I seen her crying
the night of the party because her dress didn't set
right. That was why she wouldn't dance any. . . ."
Charity stood absently gazing down at the lacy
garment on Ally's knee. Abruptly she stooped and
snatched it up.
"Well, I guess she won't dance in this either,"
she said with sudden violence; and grasping the
blouse in her strong young hands she tore it in two
and flung the tattered bits to the floor.
"Oh, Charity " Ally cried, springing up. For
a long interval the two girls faced each other across
the ruined garment. Ally burst into tears.
"Oh, what'lllsaytoher? What'llldo? It was
real lace!" she wailed between her piping sobs.
Charity glared at her unrelentingly. "You'd
oughtn't to have brought it here," she said, breath-
ing quickly. "I hate other people's clothes it's just
as if they was there themselves." The two stared
at each other again over this avowal, till Charity
brought out, in a gasp of anguish : "Oh, go go
goor I'll hate you too. . . ."
When Ally left her, she fell sobbing across her
The long storm was followed by a north-west
gale, and when it was over the hills took on their
first umber tints, the sky grew more densely blue,
and the big white clouds lay against the hills like
snow-banks. The first crisp maple-leaves began to
spin across Miss Hatchard's lawn, and the Virginia
creeper on the Memorial splashed the white porch
with scarlet. It was a golden triumphant Septem-
ber. Day by day the flame of the Virginia creeper
spread to the hillsides in wider waves of carmine
and crimson, the larches glowed like the thin yel-
low halo about a fire, the maples blazed and smoul-
dered, and the black hemlocks turned to indigo
against the incandescence of the forest.
The nights were cold, with a dry glitter of stars
so high up that they seemed smaller and more
vivid. Sometimes, as Charity lay sleepless on her
bed through the long hours, she felt as though she
were bound to those wheeling fires and swinging
with them around the great black vault. At night
she planned many things ... it was then she
wrote to Harney. But the letters were never
put on paper, for she did not know how to express
what she wanted to tell him. So she waited.
Since her talk with Ally she had felt sure that
Harney was engaged to Annabel Balch, and that
the process of "settling things" would involve the
breaking of this tie. Her first rage of jealousy
over, she felt no fear on this score. She was still
sure that Harney would come back, and she was
equally sure that, for the moment at least, it was she
whom he loved and not Miss Balch. Yet the girl,
no less, remained a rival, since she represented all
the things that Charity felt herself most incapable
of understanding or achieving. Annabel Balch was,
if not the girl Harney ought to marry, at least the
kind of girl it would be natural for him to marry.
Charity had never been able to picture herself as his
wife; had never been able to arrest the vision and
follow it out in its daily consequences ; but she could
perfectly imagine Annabel Balch in that relation
The more she thought of these things the more
the sense of fatality weighed on her: she felt the
uselessness of struggling against the circumstances.
She had never known how to adapt herself; she
could only break and tear and destroy. The scene
with Ally had left her stricken with shame at her
own childish savagery. What would Harney have
thought if he had witnessed it? But when she turned
the incident over in her puzzled mind she could
not imagine what a civilized person would have
done in her place. She felt herself too unequally
pitted against unknown forces. . . .
At length this feeling moved her to sudden ac-
tion. She took a sheet of letter paper from Mr.
Royall's office, and sitting by the kitchen lamp, one
night after Verena had gone to bed, began her first
letter to Harney. It was very short:
I want you should marry Annabel Balch if you
promised to. I think maybe you were afraid I'd feel
too bad about it. I feel I'd rather you acted right.
She posted the letter early the next morning, and
for a few days her heart felt strangely light. Then
she began to wonder why she received no answer.
One day as she sat alone in the library ponder-
ing these things the walls of books began to spin
around her, and the rosewood desk to rock under
her elbows. The dizziness was followed by a wave
of nausea like that she had felt on the day of the
exercises in the Town Hall. But the Town Hall
had been crowded and stiflingly hot, and the library
was empty, and so chilly that she had kept on her
jacket. Five minutes before she had felt perfectly
well; and now it seemed as if she were going to die.
The bit of lace at which she still languidly worked
dropped from her fingers, and the steel crochet hook
clattered to the floor. She pressed her temples hard
between her damp hands, steadying herself against
the desk while the wave of sickness swept over her.
Little by little it subsided, and after a few minutes
she stood up, shaken and terrified, groped for her
hat, and stumbled out into the air. But the whole
sunlit autumn world reeled and roared around
her as she dragged herself along the interminable
length of the road home.
As she approached the red house she saw a buggy
standing at the door, and her heart gave a leap.
But it was only Mr. Royall who got out, his travel-
ling-bag in hand. He saw her coming, and waited
in the porch. She was conscious that he was looking
at her intently, as if there was something strange
in her appearance, and she threw back her head
with a desperate effort at ease. Their eyes met,
and she said : "You back ?" as if nothing had hap-
pened, and he answered: "Yes, I'm back," and
walked in ahead of her, pushing open the door of
his office. She climbed to her room, every step
of the stairs holding her fast as if her feet were
lined with glue.
Two days later, she descended from the train at
Nettleton, and walked out of the station into the
dusty square. The brief interval of cold weather
was over, and the day was as soft, and almost as
hot, as when she and Harney had emerged on the
same scene on the Fourth of July. In the square
the same broken-down hacks and carry-alls stood
drawn up in a despondent line, and the lank horses
with fly-nets over their withers swayed their heads
drearily to and fro. She recognized the staring
signs over the eating-houses and billiard saloons,
and the long lines of wires on lofty poles tapering
down the main street to the park at its other end.
Taking the way the wires pointed, she went on
hastily, with bent head, till she reached a wide
transverse street with a brick building at the corner.
She crossed this street and glanced furtively up at
the front of the brick building; then she returned,
and entered a door opening on a flight of steep
brass-rimmed stairs. On the second landing she
rang a bell, and a mulatto girl with a bushy head
and a frilled apron let her into a hall where a stuffed
fox on his hind legs proffered a brass card-tray to
visitors. At the back of the hall was a glazed door
marked: "Office." After waiting a few minutes
in a handsomely furnished room, with plush sofas
surmounted by large gold-framed photographs of
showy young women, Charity was shown into the
When she came out of the glazed door Dr. Merkle
followed, and led her into another room, smaller,
and still more crowded with plush and gold frames.
Dr. Merkle was a plump woman with small bright
eyes, an immense mass of- black hair coming down
low on her forehead, and unnaturally white and
even teeth. She wore a rich black dress, with gold
chains and charms hanging from her bosom. Her
hands were large and smooth, and quick in all their
movements; and she smelt of musk and carbolic
She smiled on Charity with all her faultless teeth.
"Sit down, my dear. Wouldn't you like a little
drop of something to pick you up? ... No. . . .
Well, just lay back a minute then. . . . There's
nothing to be done just yet ; but in about a month,
if you'll step round again ... I could take you
right into my own house for two or three days,
and there wouldn't be a mite of trouble. Mercy
me! The next time you'll know better'n to fret
like this. . . ."
Charity gazed at her with widening eyes. This
woman with the false hair, the false teeth, the false
murderous smile what was she offering her but
immunity from some unthinkable crime? Charity,
till then, had been conscious only of a vague self-
disgust and a frightening physical distress ; now, of
a sudden, there came to her the grave surprise of
motherhood. She had come to this dreadful place
because she knew of no other way of making sure
that she was not mistaken about her state; and
the woman had taken her for a miserable creature
like Julia. . . . The thought was so horrible that
she sprang up, white and shaking, one of her great
rushes of anger sweeping over her.
Dr. Merkle, still smiling, also rose. "Why do
you run off in such a hurry ? You can stretch out
right here on my sofa. . . ." She paused, and her
smile grew more motherly. "Afterwards if there's
been any talk at home, and you want to get away
for a while ... I have a lady friend in Boston
who's looking for a companion . . . you're the
very one to suit her, my dear. ..."
Charity had reached the door. "I don't want to
stay. I don't want to come back here," she stam-
mered, her hand on the knob; but with a swift
movement Dr. Merkle edged her from the thresh-
"Oh, very well. Five dollars, please."
Charity looked helplessly at the doctor's tight
lips and rigid face. Her last savings had gone
in repaying Ally for the cost of Miss Balch's
ruined blouse, and she had had to borrow four dol-
lars from her friend to pay for her railway ticket
and cover the doctor's fee. It had never occurred
to her that medical advice could cost more than two
"I didn't know ... I haven't got that
much ..." she faltered, bursting into tears.
Dr. Merkle gave a short laugh which did not
show her teeth, and inquired with concision if Char-
ity supposed she ran the establishment for her own
amusement ? She leaned her firm shoulders against
the door as she spoke, like a grim gaoler making
terms with her captive.
"You say you'll come round and settle later ? I've
heard that pretty often too. Give 'me your address,
and if you can't pay me I'll send the bill to your
folks. . . . What? I can't understand what you
say. . . . That don't suit you either? My, you're
pretty particular for a girl that ain't got enough
to settle her own bills. . . ." She paused, and fixed
her eyes on the brooch with a blue stone that Char-
ity had pinned to her blouse.
"Ain't you ashamed to talk that way to a lady
that's got to earn her living, when you go about
with jewellery like that on you? . . . It ain't in my
line, and I do it only as a favour . . . but if you're
a mind to leave that brooch as a pledge, I don't say
no. . . . Yes, of course, you can get it back when
you bring me my money. . . ."
On the way home, she felt an immense and un-
expected quietude. It had been horrible to have
to leave Harney's gift in the woman's hands, but
even at that price the news she brought away had
not been too dearly bought. She sat with half-
closed eyes as the train rushed through the familiar
landscape; and now the memories of her former
journey, instead of flying before her like dead
leaves, seemed to be ripening in her blood like sleep-
ing grain. She would never again know what it was
to feel herself alone. Everything seemed to have
grown suddenly clear and simple. She no longer had
any difficulty in picturing herself as Harney's wife
now that she was the mother of his child ; and com-
pared to her sovereign right Annabel Balch's claim
seemed no more than a girl's sentimental fancy.
That evening, at the gate of the red house, she
found Ally waiting in the dusk. "I was down at
the post-office just as they were closing up, and Will
Targatt said there was a letter for you, so I brought
Ally held out the letter, looking at Charity with
piercing sympathy. Since the scene of the torn
blouse there had been a new and fearful admiration
.in the eyes she bent on her friend.
Charity snatched the letter with a laugh. "Oh,
t~hank you good-night/' she called out over her
shoulder as she ran up the path. If she had lin-
gered a moment she knew she would have had
Ally at her heels.
She hurried upstairs and felt her way into her
dark room. Her hands trembled as she groped
for the matches and lit her candle, and the flap
of the envelope was so closely stuck that she had
to find her scissors and slit it open. At length she
I have your letter, and it touches me more than I can
say. Won't you trust me, in return, to do my best?
There are things it is hard to explain, much less to
justify; but your generosity makes everything easier.
All I can do now is tc thank you from my soul for un-
derstanding. Your telling me that you wanted me tp
do right has helped me beyond expression. If ever
there is a hope of realizing what we dreamed of you
will see me back on the instant ; and I haven't yet lost
She read the letter with a rush; then she went
over and over it, each time more slowly and pains-
takingly. It was so beautifully expressed that she
found it almost as difficult to understand as the
gentleman's explanation of the Bible pictures at
Nettleton; but gradually she became aware that
the gist of its meaning lay in the last few words.
"If ever there is a hope of realizing what we
dreamed of . . ."
But then he wasn't even sure of that? She un-
derstood now that every word and every reticence
was an avowal of Annabel Balch's prior claim. It
was true that he was engaged to her, and that he
had not yet found a way of breaking his engage-
As she read the letter over Charity understood
what it must have cost him to write it. He was
not trying to evade an importunate claim; he was
honestly and contritely struggling between oppos-
ing duties. She did not even reproach him in her
thoughts for having concealed from her that he
was not free: she could not see anything more re-
prehensible in his conduct than in her own. From
the first she had needed him more than he had
wanted her, and the power that had swept them
together had been as far beyond resistance as a
great gale loosening the leaves of the forest. ...
Only, there stood between them, fixed and upright
in the general upheaval, the indestructible figure of
Annabel Balch. . . .
Face to face with his admission of the fact, she
sat staring at the letter. A cold tremor ran over
her, and the hard sobs struggled up into her throat
and shook her from head to foot. For a while she
was caught and tossed on great waves of anguish
that left her hardly conscious of anything but the
blind struggle against their assaults. Then, little
by little, she began to relive, with a dreadful poign-
ancy, each separate stage of her poor romance.
Foolish things she had said came back to her, gay
answers Harney had made, his first kiss in the
darkness between the fireworks, their choosing the
blue brooch together, the way he had teased her
about the letters she had dropped in her flight from
the evangelist. All these memories, and a thousand
others, hummed through her brain till his nearness
grew so vivid that she felt his fingers in her hair,
and his warm breath on her cheek as he bent her
head back like a flower. These things were hers;
they had passed into her blood, and become a part
of her, they were building the child in her womb;
it was impossible to tear asunder strands of life so
The conviction gradually strengthened her, and
she began to form in her mind the first words of
the letter she meant to write to Harney. She wanted
to write it at once, and with feverish hands she
began to rummage in her drawer for a sheet of
letter paper. But there was none left; she must
go downstairs to get it. She had a superstitious
feeling that the letter must be written on the in-
stant, that setting down her secret in words would
bring her reassurance and safety; and taking up
her candle she went down to Mr. Royall's office.
At that hour she was not likely to find him there :
he had probably had his supper and walked over
to Carrick Fry's. She pushed open the door of
the unlit room, and the light of her lifted candle
fell on his figure, seated in the darkness in his high-
backed chair. His arms lay along the arms of the
chair, and his head was bent a little; but he lifted it
quickly as Charity entered. She started back as
their eyes met, remembering that her own were red
with weeping, and that her face was livid with the
fatigue and emotion of her journey. But it was
too late to escape, and she stood and looked at him
He had risen from his chair, and came toward her
with outstretched hands. The gesture was so unex-
pected that she let him take her hands in his, and
they stood thus, without speaking, till Mr. Royall
said gravely : "Charity was you looking for me ?"
She freed herself abruptly and fell back.
"Me? No " She set down the candle on
his desk. "I wanted some letter-paper, that's all."
His face contracted, and the bushy brows jutted
forward over his eyes. Without answering he
opened the drawer of the desk, took out a sheet of
paper and an envelope, and pushed them toward
her. "Do you want a stamp too ?" he asked.
She nodded, and he gave her the stamp. As he
did so she felt that he was looking at her intently,
and she knew that the candle light flickering up on
her white face must be distorting her swollen fea-
tures and exaggerating the dark rings about her
eyes. She snatched up the paper, her reassurance
dissolving under his pitiless gaze, in which she
seemed to read the grim perception of her state,
and the ironic recollection of the day when, in that
very room, he had offered to compel Harney to
marry her. His look seemed to say that he knew
she had taken the paper to write to her lover, who
had left her as he had warned her she would be
left. She remembered the scorn with which she
had turned from him that day, and knew, if he
guessed the truth, what a list of old scores it must
settle. She turned and fled upstairs ; but when she
got back to her room all the words that had been
waiting had vanished. . . .
If she could have gone to Harney it would have
been different; she would only have had to show
herself to let his memories speak for her. But she
had no money left, and there was no one from
whom she could have borrowed enough for such a
journey. There was nothing to do but to write,
and await his reply. For a long time she sat bent
above the blank page ; but she found nothing to say
that really expressed what she was feeling. . . .
Harney had written that she had made it easier
for him, and she was glad it was so; she did not
want to make things hard. She knew she
had it in her power to do that; she held his fate
in her hands. All she had to do was to tell him the
truth; but that was the very fact that held her
back. . . . Her five minutes face to face with Mr.
Royall had stripped her of her last illusion, and
brought her back to North Dormer's point of view.
Distinctly and pitilessly there rose before her the
fate of the girl who was married "to make things
right. " She had seen too many village love-stories
end in that way. Poor Rose Coles's miserable mar-
riage was of the number ; and what good had come
of it for her or for Halston Skeff ? They had hated
each other from the day the minister married them ;
and whenever old Mrs. Skeff had a fancy to humfli*
ate her daughter-in-law she had only to says
"Who'd ever think the baby's only two ? And for
a seven months' child ain't it a wonder what a
size he is?" North Dormer had treasures of in-
dulgence for brands in the burning, but only deri-
sion for those who succeeded in getting snatched
from it; and Charity had always understood Julia
Hawes's refusal to be snatched. . . .
Only was there no alternative but Julia's? Her
soul recoiled from the vision of the white-faced
woman among the plush sofas and gilt frames. In
the established order of things as she knew them
she saw no place for her individual adventure. . . .
She sat in her chair without undressing till faint
grey streaks began to divide the black slats of the
shutters. Then she stood up and pushed them open,
letting in the light. The coming of a new day
brought a sharper consciousness of ineluctable real-
ity, and with it a sense of the need of action. She
looked at herself in the glass, and saw her face,
white in the autumn dawn, with pinched cheeks and
dark-ringed eyes, and all the marks of her state
that she herself would never have noticed, but that
Dr. Merkle's diagnosis had made plain to her. She
could not hope that those signs would escape the
watchful village; even before her figure lost its
shape she knew her face would betray her.
Leaning from her window she looked out on the
dark and empty scene; the ashen houses with shut-
tered windows, the grey road climbing the slope to
the hemlock belt above the cemetery, and the heavy
mass of the Mountain black against a rainy sky.
To the east a space of light was broadening above
the forest; but over that also the clouds hung.
Slowly her gaze travelled across the fields to the
rugged curve of the hills. She had looked out so
often on that lifeless circle, and wondered if any-
thing could ever happen to anyone who was en-
closed in it. ...
Almost without conscious thought her decision
had been reached; as her eyes had followed the
circle of the hills her mind had also travelled the
old round. She supposed it was something in her
blood that made the Mountain the only answer to
her questioning, the inevitable escape from all that
hemmed her in and beset her. At any rate it began to
loom in her now as it loomed against the rainy dawn ;
and the longer she looked at it the more clearly she un-
derstood that now at last she was really going there.
THE rain held off, and an hour later, when
she started, wild gleams of sunlight were
blowing across the fields.
After Harney's departure she had returned her
bicycle to its owner at Creston, and she was not sure
of being able to walk all the way to the Mountain.
The deserted house was on the road; but the idea
of spending the night there was unendurable, and
she meant to try to push on to Hamblin, where she
could sleep under a wood-shed if her strength should
fail her. Her preparations had been made with
quiet forethought. Before starting she had forced
herself to swallow a glass of milk and eat a piece
of bread; and she had put in her canvas satchel
a little packet of the chocolate that Harney always
carried in his bicycle bag. She wanted above all
to keep up her strength, and reach her destination
without attracting notice. . . .
Mile by mile she retraced the road over which
she had so often flown to her lover. When she
reached the turn where the wood-road branched off
from the Creston highway she remembered the Gos~
pel tent long since folded up and transplanted
and her start of involuntary terror when the fat
evangelist had said : "Your Saviour knows every-
thing. Come and confess your guilt." There was
no sense of guilt in her now, but only a desperate
desire to defend her secret from irreverent eyes, and
begin life again among people to whom the harsh
code of the village was unknown. The impulse did
not shape itself in thought: she only knew she
must save her baby, and hide herself with it
somewhere where no one would ever come to trouble
She walked on and on, growing more heavy-
footed as the day advanced. It seemed a cruel
chance that compelled her to retrace every step of
the way to the deserted house; and when she came
in sight of the orchard, and the silver-gray roof
slanting crookedly through the laden branches, her
strength failed her and she sat down by the road-
side. She sat there a long time, trying to gather the
courage to start again, and walk past the broken
gate and the untrimmed rose-bushes strung with
scarlet hips. A few drops of rain were falling,
and she thought of the warm evenings when she and
Harney had sat embraced in the shadowy room,
and the noise of summer showers on the roof had
rustled through their kisses. At length she under-
stood that if she stayed any longer the rain might
compel her to take shelter in the house overnight,
and she got up and walked on, averting her eyes as
she came abreast of the white gate and the tangled
The hours wore on, and she walked more and
more slowly, pausing now and then to rest, and to
eat a little bread and an apple picked up from the
roadside. Her body seemed to grow heavier with
every yard of the way, and she wondered how she
would be able to carry her child later, if already he
laid such a burden on her. ... A fresh wind had
sprung up, scattering the rain and blowing down
keenly from the mountain. Presently the clouds
lowered again, and a few white darts struck her in
the face : it was the first snow falling over Hamblin.
The roofs of the lonely village were only half a mile
ahead, and she was resolved to push beyond it, and
try to reach the Mountain that night. She had no
clear plan of action, except that, once in the settle-
ment, she meant to look for Liff Hyatt, and get
him to take her to her mother. She herself had
been born as her own baby was going to be born;
and whatever her mother's subsequent life had been,
she could hardly help remembering the past, and
receiving a daughter who was facing the trouble she
Suddenly the deadly faintness came over her once
more and she sat down on the bank and leaned her
head against a tree-trunk. The long road and the
cloudy landscape vanished from her eyes, and for
a time she seemed to be circling about in some ter-
rible wheeling darkness. Then that too faded.
She opened her eyes, and saw a buggy drawn up
beside her, and a man who had jumped down from
it and was gazing at her with a puzzled face.
Slowly consciousness came back, and she saw that
the man was Liff Hyatt.
She was dimly aware that he was asking her
something, and she looked at him in silence, trying
to find strength to speak. At length her voice stirred
in her throat, and she said in a whisper : "I'm going
up the Mountain/'
"Up the Mountain?" he repeated, drawing aside
a little; and as he moved she saw behind him, in
the buggy, a heavily coated figure with a familiar
pink face and gold spectacles on the bridge of a
'"'Charity! What on earth are you doing here?"
Mr. Miles exclaimed, throwing the reins on the
horse's back and scrambling down from the buggy.
She lifted her heavy eyes to his. "I'm going to
see my mother/'
The two men glanced at each other, and for a
moment neither of them spoke.
Then Mr. Miles said: "You look ill, my dear,
and it's a long way. Do you think it's wise ?"
Charity stood up. "I've got to go to her."
A vague mirthless grin contracted Lift" Hyatt's
face, and Mr. Miles again spoke uncertainly. "You
know, then you'd been told?"
She stared at him. "I don't know what you mean.
I want to go to her."
Mr. Miles was examining her thoughtfully. She
fancied she saw a change in his expression, and
the blood rushed to her forehead. "I just want to
go to her," she repeated.
He laid his hand on her arm. "My child, your
mother is dying. Lift Hyatt came down to fetch
me. . . . Get in and come with us."
He helped her up to the seat at his side, Liff
Hyatt clambered in at the back, and they drove off
toward Hamblin. At first Charity had hardly
grasped what Mr. Miles was saying; the physical
relief of finding herself seated in the buggy, and
securely on her road to the Mountain, effaced the
impression of his words. But as her head cleared
she began to understand. She knew the Mountain
had but the most infrequent intercourse with the
valleys; she had often enough heard it said that
no one ever went up there except the minister, when
someone was dying. And now it was her mother
who was dying . . . and she would find herself as
much alone on the Mountain as anywhere else in
the world. The sense of unescapable isolation was
all she could feel for the moment; then she began
to wonder at the strangeness of its being Mr. Miles
who had undertaken to perform this grim errand.
He did not seem in the least like the kind of man
who would care to go up the Mountain. But here he
was at her side, guiding the horse with a firm hand,
and bending on her the kindly gleam of his spec-
tacles, as if there were nothing unusual in their be-
ing together in such circumstances.
For a while she found it impossible to speak, and
he seemed to understand this, and made no attempt
to question her. But presently she felt her tears
rise and flow down over her drawn cheeks; and he
must have seen them too, for he laid his hand on
hers, and said in a low voice: "Won't you tell me
what is troubling you?"
She shook her head, and he did not insist: but
after a while he said, in the same low tone, so that
they should not be overheard : "Charity, what do
you know of your childhood, before you came down
to North Dormer?"
She controlled herself, and answered : "Nothing
only what I heard Mr. Royall say one day. He said
he brought me down because my father went to
"And you've never been up there since ?"
Mr. Miles was silent again, then he said: "I'm
glad you're coming with me now. Perhaps we may
find your mother alive, and she may know that you
They had reached Hamblin, where the snow-flurry
had left white patches in the rough grass on the
roadside, and in the angles of the roofs facing
north. It was a poor bleak village under the granite
flank of the Mountain, and as soon as they left it
they began to climb. The road was steep and full
of ruts, and the horse settled down to a walk while
they mounted and mounted, the world dropping
away below them in great mottled stretches of for-
est and field, and stormy dark blue distances.
Charity had often had visions of this ascent of
the Mountain but she had not known it would re-
veal so wide a country, and the sight of those strange
lands reaching away on every side gave her a new
sense of Harney's remoteness. She knew he must
be miles and miles beyond the last range of hills
that seemed to be the outmost verge of things, and
she wondered how she had ever dreamed of going
to New York to find him. . . .
As the road mounted the country grew bleaker,
and they drove across fields of faded mountain grass
bleached by long months beneath the snow. In the
hollows a few white birches trembled, or a moun-
tain ash lit its scarlet clusters; but only a scant
growth of pines darkened the granite ledges. The
'wind was blowing fiercely across the open slopes;
the horse faced it with bent head and straining
flanks, and now and then the buggy swayed so that
Charity had to clutch its side.
Mr. Miles had not spoken again; he seemed to
understand that she wanted to be left alone. After
a while the track they were following forked, and
he pulled up the horse, as if uncertain of the way.
Liff Hyatt craned his head around from the back,
and shouted against the wind : "Left " and they
turned into a stunted pine-wood and began to drive
down the other side of the Mountain.
A mile or two farther on they came out on a
clearing where two or three low houses lay in stony
fields, crouching among the rocks as if to brace
themselves against the wind. They were hardly
more than sheds, built of logs and rough boards,
with tin stove-pipes sticking out of their roofs. The
sun was setting, and dusk had already fallen on
the lower world, but a yellow glare still lay on the
lonely hillside and the crouching houses. The next
moment it faded and left the landscape in dark
"Over there," Liff called out, stretching his long
arm over Mr. Miles's shoulder. The clergyman
turned to the left, across a bit of bare ground over-
grown with docks and nettles, and stopped before
the most ruinous of the sheds. A stove-pipe reached
its crooked arm out of one window, and the broken
panes of the other were stuffed with rags and paper.
In contrast to such a dwelling the brown house in
the swamp might have stood for the home of plenty.
As the buggy drew up two or three mongrel dogs
jumped out of the twilight with a great barking, and
a young man slouched to the door and stood there
staring. In the twilight Charity saw that his face
had the same sodden look as Bash Hyatt's, the day
she had seen him sleeping by the stove. He made
no effort to silence the dogs, but leaned in the door,
as if roused from a drunken lethargy, while Mr.
Miles got out of the buggy.
"Is it here?" the clergyman asked Liff in a low
voice; and Liff nodded.
Mr. Miles turned to Charity. "Just hold the horse
a minute, my dear : I'll go in first," he said, putting
the reins in her hands. She took them passively,
and sat staring straight ahead of her at the darken-
ing scene while Mr. Miles and Liff Hyatt went up
to the house. They stood a few minutes talking
with the man in the door, and then Mr. Miles came
back. As he came close, Charity saw that his smooth
pink face wore a frightened solemn look.
"Your mother is dead, Charity ; you'd better come
with me," he said.
She got down and followed him while Liff led the
horse away. As she approached the door she said
to herself : "This is where I was born . . . this is
where I belong. . . ." She had said it to herself
often enough as she looked across the sunlit val-
leys at the Mountain ; but it had meant nothing then,
and now it had become a reality. Mr. Miles took
her gently by the arm, and they entered what ap-
peared to be the only room in the house. It was
so dark that she could just discern a group of a
dozen people sitting or sprawling about a table made
of boards laid across two barrels. They looked up
listlessly as Mr. Miles and Charity came in, and a
woman's thick voice said: "Here's the preacher."
But no one moved.
Mr. Miles paused and looked about him; then
he turned to the young man who had met them
at the door.
"Is the body here?" he asked.
The young man, instead of answering, turned his
head toward the group. "Where's the candle? I
tole yer to bring a candle," he said with sudden
harshness to a girl who was lolling against the
table. She did not answer, but another man got
up and took from some corner a candle stuck into
"How'll I light it? The stove's out/' the girl
Mr. Miles fumbled under his heavy wrappings and
drew out a match-box. He held a match to the
candle, and in a moment or two a faint circle of
light fell on the pale aguish heads that started out
of the shadow like the heads of nocturnal animals.
"Mary's over there," someone said; and Mr.
Miles, taking the bottle in his hand, passed behind
the table. Charity followed him, and they stood be-
fore a mattress on the floor in a corner of the room.
A woman lay on it, but she did not look like a
dead woman; she seemed to have fallen across
her squalid bed in a drunken sleep, and to have been
left lying where she fell, in her ragged disordered
clothes. One arm was flung above her head, one
leg drawn up under a torn skirt that left the other
bare to the knee: a swollen glistening leg with a
ragged stocking rolled down about the ankle. The
woman lay on her back, her eyes staring up un-
blinkingly at the candle that trembled in Mr. Miles's
"She jus' dropped off," a woman said, over the
shoulder of the others ; and the young man added :
"I jus' come in and found her."
An elderly man with lank hair and a feeble grin
pushed between them. "It was like this : I says to
her on'y the night before: if you don't take and
quit, I says to her . . ."
Someone pulled him back and sent him reeling
against a bench along the wall, where he dropped
down muttering his unheeded narrative.
There was a silence ; then the young woman who
had been lolling against the table suddenly parted
the group, and stood in front of Charity. She was
healthier and robuster looking than the others, and
her weather-beaten face had a certain sullen beauty.
"Who's the girl? Who brought her here?" she
said, fixing her eyes mistrustfully on the young man
who had rebuked her for not having a candle ready.
Mr. Miles spoke. "I brought her; she is Mary
"What? Her too?" the girl sneered; and the
young man turned on her with an oath. "Shut your
mouth, damn you, or get out of here," he said; then
he relapsed into his former apathy, and dropped
down on the bench, leaning his head against the wall,
Mr. Miles had set the candle on the floor and
taken off his heavy coat. He turned to Charity.
"Come and help me," he said.
He knelt down by the mattress, and pressed the
lids over the dead woman's eyes. Charity, trem-
bling and sick, knelt beside him, and tried to com-
pose her mother's body. She drew the stocking
over the dreadful glistening leg, and pulled the skirt
down to the battered upturned boots. As she did
so, she looked at her mother's face, thin yet swol-
len, with lips parted in a frozen gasp above the
broken teeth. There was no sign in it of anything
human: she lay there like a dead dog in a ditch.
Charity's hands grew cold as they touched her.
Mr. Miles drew the woman's arms across her
breast and laid his coat over her. Then he covered
her face with his handkerchief, and placed the bot-
tle with the candle in it at her head. Having done
this he stood up.
"Is there no coffin?" he asked, turning to the
group behind him.
There was a moment of bewildered silence ; then
the fierce girl spoke up. "You'd oughter brought it
with you. Where'd we get one here, I'd like ter
Mr. Miles, looking at the others, repeated: "Is
it possible you have no coffin ready?"
"That's what I say: them that has it sleeps bet-
ter," an old woman murmured. "But then she
never had no bed. . . ."
"And the stove warn't hers/' said the lank-haired
man, on the defensive.
Mr. Miles turned away from them and moved
a few steps apart. He had drawn a book from his
pocket, and after a pause he opened it and began
to read, holding the book at arm's length and low
down, so that the pages caught the feeble light.
Charity had remained on her knees by the mattress :
now that her mother's face was covered it was easier
to stay near her, and avoid the sight of the living
faces which too horribly showed by what stages
hers had lapsed into death.
"I am the Resurrection and the Life," Mr. Miles
began; "he that believeth in me, though he were
dead, yet shall he live. . . . Though after my skin
worms destroy my body, yet in my flesh shall I
see God. . . ."
In my flesh shall I see God! Charity thought of
the gaping mouth and stony eyes under the hand-
kerchief, and of the glistening leg over which she
had drawn the stocking. . . .
"We brought nothing into this world and we
shall take nothing out of it "
There was a sudden muttering and a scuffle a.t
the back of the group. "I brought the stove," said
the elderly man with lank hair, pushing his way be-
tween the others. "I wen' down to Creston'n bought
it ... n' I got a right to take it outer here . . .
n' I'll lick any feller says I ain't. . . ."
"Sit down, damn you!" shouted the tall youth
who had been drowsing on the bench against the
'Tor man walketh in a vain shadow, and dis-
quieteth himself in vain; he heapeth up riches and
cannot tell who shall gather them ..."
"Well, it are his," a woman in the background
interjected in a frightened whine.
The tall youth staggered to his feet. "If you
don't hold your mouths I'll turn you all out o' here,
the whole lot of you," he cried with many oaths.
"G'wan, minister . . . don't let 'em faze you. . . ."
"Now is Christ risen from the dead and become
the first-fruits of them that slept. . . . Behold, I
show you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we
shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling
of an eye, at the last trump. . . . For this cor-
ruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal
must put on immortality. So when this corruption
shall have put on incorruption, and when this mor-
tal shall have put on immortality, then shall be
brought to pass the saying that is written, Death
is swallowed up in Victory. . . ."
One by one the mighty words fell on Charity's
bowed head, soothing the horror, subduing the tu-
mult, mastering her as they mastered the drink-
dazed creatures at her back. Mr. Miles read to
the last word, and then closed the book.
"Is the grave ready?" he asked.
Liff Hyatt, who had come in while he was read-
ing, nodded a "Yes," and pushed forward to the
side of the mattress. The young man on the bench,
who seemed to assert some sort of right of kinship
with the dead woman, got to his feet again, and the
proprietor of the stove joined him. Between them
they raised up the mattress; but their movements
were unsteady, and the coat slipped to the floor, re-
vealing the poor body in its helpless misery. Char-
ity, picking up the coat, covered her mother once
more. Liff had brought a lantern, and the old
woman who had already spoken took it up, and
opened the door to let the little procession pass
out. The wind had dropped, and the night was
very dark and bitterly cold. The old woman walked
ahead, the lantern shaking in her hand and spread-
ing out before her a pale patch of dead grass and
coarse-leaved weeds enclosed in an immensity of
Mr. Miles took Charity by the arm, and side
by side they walked behind the mattress. At length
the old woman with the lantern stopped, and Charity
saw the light fall on the stooping shoulders of
the bearers and on a ridge of upheaved earth over
which they were bending. Mr. Miles released her
arm and approached the hollow on the other side
of the ridge ; and while the men stooped down, low-
ering the mattress into the grave, he began to speak
"Man that is born of woman hath but a short
time to live and is full of misery. . . . He cometh
up and is cut down ... he fleeth as it were a shad-
ow. . . . Yet, O Lord God most holy, O Lord
most mighty, O holy and merciful Saviour, deliver
us not into the bitter pains of eternal death . . ."
"Easy there ... is she down?" piped the claim-
ant to the stove; and the young man called over his
shoulder: "Lift the light there, can't you?"
There was a pause, during which the light floated
uncertainly over the open grave. Someone bent
over and pulled out Mr. Miles's coat ("No, no
leave the handkerchief/' he interposed) and then
LifT Hyatt, coming forward with a spade, began to
shovel in the earth.
"Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God of
His great mercy to take unto Himself the soul of
our dear sister here departed, we therefore commit
her body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to
ashes, dust to dust . . ." LifFs gaunt shoulders
rose and bent in the lantern light as he dashed the
clods of earth into the grave. "God it's froze
a' ready/' he muttered, spitting into his palm and
passing his ragged shirt-sleeve across his perspir-
"Through our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall
change our vile body that it may be like unto His
glorious body, according to the mighty working,
whereby He is able to subdue all things unto Him-
self . . ." The last spadeful of earth fell on the
vile body of Mary Hyatt, and Liff rested on his
spade, his shoulder blades still heaving with the ef-
"Lord, have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy
upon us, Lord have mercy upon us. . . ."
Mr. Miles took the lantern from the old woman's
hand and swept its light across the circle of bleared
faces. "Now kneel down, all of you/' he com-
manded, in a voice of authority that Charity had
never heard. She knelt down at the edge of the
grave, and the others, stiffly and hesitatingly, got
to their knees beside her. Mr. Miles knelt, too.
"And now pray with me you know this prayer,"
he said, and he began: "Our Father which art in
Heaven . . ." One or two of the women falter-
ingly took the words up, and when he ended, the
lank-haired man flung himself on the neck of the
tall youth. "It was this way," he said. "I tole her
the night before, I says to her . . ." The reminis-
cence ended in a sob.
Mr. Miles had been getting into his coat again.
He came up to Charity, who had remained pas-
sively kneeling by the rough mound of earth.
"My child, you must come. It's very late."
She lifted her eyes to his face: he seemed to
speak out of another world.
"I ain't coming: I'm going to stay here."
"Here? Where? What do you mean?"
"These are my folks. I'm going to stay with
Mr. Miles lowered his voice. "But it's not pos-
sible you don't know what you are doing. You
can't stay among these people : you must come with
She shook her head and rose from her knees.
The group about the grave had scattered in the
darkness, but the old woman with the lantern stood
waiting. Her mournful withered face was not
unkind, and Charity went up to her.
"Have you got a place where I can lie down
for the night?" she asked. Liff came up, leading
the buggy out of the night. He looked from one
to the other with his feeble smile. "She's my
mother. She'll take you home," he said; and he
added, raising his voice to speak to the old woman :
"It's the girl from lawyer Royall's Mary's girl
. . . you remember. ..."
The woman nodded and raised her sad old eyes
to Charity's. When Mr. Miles and Liff clambered
into the buggy she went ahead with the lantern to
show them the track they were to follow; then she
turned back, and in silence she and Charity walked
away together through the night.
CHARITY lay on the floor on a mattress, as
her dead mother's body had lain. The room
in which she lay was cold and dark and low-ceil-
inged, and even poorer and barer than the scene
of Mary Hyatt's earthly pilgrimage. On the other
side of the fireless stove Liff Hyatt's mother slept
on a blanket, with two children her grandchildren,
she said rolled up against her like sleeping pup-
pies. They had their thin clothes spread over them,
having given the only other blanket to their guest.
Through the small square of glass in the oppo-
site wall Charity saw a deep funnel of sky, so black,
so remote, so palpitating with frosty stars that her
very soul seemed to be sucked up into it. Up there
somewhere, she supposed, the God whom Mr. Miles
had invoked was waiting for Mary Hyatt to appear.
What a long flight it was! And what would she
have to say when she reached Him?
Charity's bewildered brain laboured with the at-
tempt to picture her mother's past, and to relate it
in any way to the designs of a just but merciful
God; but it was impossible to imagine any link
between them. She herself felt as remote from
the poor creature she had seen lowered into her
hastily dug grave as if the height of the heavens
had divided them. She had seen poverty and mis-
fortune in her life; but in a community where poor
thrifty Mrs. Hawes and the industrious Ally rep-
resented the nearest approach to destitution there
was nothing to suggest the savage misery of the
As she lay there, half -stunned by her tragic initia-
tion, Charity vainly tried to think herself into the
life about her. But she could not even make out
what relationship these people bore to each other,
or to her dead mother; they seemed to be herded
together in a sort of passive promiscuity in which
their common misery was the strongest link. She
tried to picture to herself what her life would have
been if she had grown up on the Mountain, running
wild in rags, sleeping on the floor curled up against
her mother, like the pale-faced children huddled
against old Mrs. Hyatt, and turning into a fierce
bewildered creature like the girl who had apostro-
phized her in such strange words. She was fright-
cned by the secret affinity she had felt with
this girl, and by the light it threw on her
own beginnings. Then she remembered what Mr.
Royall had said in telling her story to Lucius
Harney: "Yes, there was a mother; but she was
glad to have the child go. She'd have given her to
anybody. . . ."
Well ! after all, was her mother so much to blame ?
Charity, since that day, had always thought of
her as destitute of all human feeling; now she
seemed merely pitiful. What mother would not
want to save her child from such a life? Charity
thought of the future of her own child, and tears
welled into her aching eyes, and ran down over
her face. If she had been less exhausted, less bur-
dened with his weight, she would have sprung up
then and there and fled away. . . .
The grim hours of the night dragged themselves
slowly by, and at last the sky paled and dawn threw
a cold blue beam into the room. She lay in her
corner staring at the dirty floor, the clothes-line
hung with decaying rags, the old woman huddled
against the cold stove, and the light gradually
spreading across the wintry world, and bringing
with it a new day in which she would have to live,
to choose, to act, to make herself a place among
these people or to go back to the life she had left.
A mortal lassitude weighed on her. There were
moments when she felt that all she asked was to go
on lying there unnoticed ; then her mind revolted at
the thought of becoming one of the miserable herd
from which she sprang, and it seemed as though, to
save her child from such a fate, she would find
strength to travel any distance, and bear any bur-
den life might put on her.
Vague thoughts of Nettleton flitted through her
mind. She said to herself that she would
find some quiet place where she could bear
her child, and give it to decent people to keep;
and then she would go out like Julia Hawes and
earn its living and hers. She knew that girls of that
kind sometimes made enough to have their chil-
dren nicely cared for ; and every other consideration
disappeared in the vision of her baby, cleaned and
combed and rosy, and hidden away somewhere
where she could run in and kiss it, and bring it
pretty things to wear. Anything, anything was bet-
ter than to add another life to the nest of misery
on the Mountain. . . .
The old woman and the children were still sleep-
ing when Charity rose from her mattress. Her body
was stiff with cold and fatigue, and she moved
slowly lest her heavy steps should rouse them. She
was faint with hunger, and had nothing left in
her satchel; but on the table she saw the half of
a stale loaf. No doubt it was to serve as the break-
fast of old Mrs. Hyatt and the children ; but Char-
ity did not care; she had her own baby to think
of. She broke off a piece of the bread and ate it
greedily; then her glance fell on the thin faces
of the sleeping children, and filled with compunction
she rummaged in her satchel for something with
which to pay for what she had taken. She found
one of the pretty chemises that Ally had made for
her, with a blue ribbon run through its edging. It
was one of the dainty things on which she had
squandered her savings, and as she looked at it the
blood rushed to her forehead. She laid the chemise
on the table, and stealing across the floor lifted
the latch and went out. . . .
The morning was icy cold and a pale sun was
just rising above the eastern shoulder of the Moun-
tain. The houses scattered on the hillside lay cold
and smokeless under the sun-flecked clouds, and not
a human being was in sight. Charity paused on
the threshold and tried to discover the road by
which she had come the night before. Across the
field surrounding Mrs. Hyatt's shanty she saw the
tumble-down house in which she supposed the funeral
service had taken place. The trail ran across the
ground between the two houses and disappeared in
the pine-wood on the flank of the Mountain; and
a little way to the right, under a wind-beaten thorn,
a mound of fresh earth made a dark spot on the
fawn-coloured stubble. Charity walked across the
field to the mound. As she approached it she
heard a bird's note in the still air, and looking up
she saw a brown song-sparrow perched in an upper
branch of the thorn above the grave. She stood a
minute listening to his small solitary song ; then she
rejoined the trail and began to mount the hill to
Thus far she had been impelled by the blind in-
stinct of flight; but each step seemed to bring her
nearer to the realities of which her feverish vigil
had given only a shadowy image. Now that she
walked again in a daylight world, on the way back to
familiar things, her imagination moved more so-
berly. On one point she was still decided : she could
not remain at North Dormer, and the sooner she
got away from it the better. But everything be-
yond was darkness.
As she continued to climb the air grew keener,
and when she passed from the shelter of the pines
to the open grassy roof of the Mountain the cold
wind of the night before sprang out on her. She
bent her shoulders and struggled on against it for
a while; but presently her breath failed, and she
sat down under a ledge of rock overhung by shiv-
ering birches. From where she sat she saw the
trail wandering across the bleached grass in the
direction of Hamblin, and the granite wall of the
Mountain falling away to infinite distances. On that
side of the ridge the valleys still lay in wintry
shadow ; but in the plain beyond the sun was touch-
ing village roofs and steeples, and gilding the haze
of smoke over far-off invisible towns.
Charity felt herself a mere speck in the lonely
circle of the sky. The events of the last two days
seemed to have divided her forever from her short
dream of bliss. Even Harney's image had been
blurred by that crushing experience: she thought
of him as so remote from her that he seemed hardly
more than a memory. In her fagged and floating
mind only one sensation had the weight of reality ;
it was the bodily burden of her child. But for it
she would have felt as rootless as the whiffs of
thistledown the wind blew past her. Her child was
like a load that held her down, and yet like a hand
that pulled her to her feet. She said to herself
that she must get up and struggle on. ...
Her eyes turned back to the trail across the top
of the Mountain, and in the distance she saw a buggy
against the sky. She knew its antique outline, and
the gaunt build of the old horse pressing forward
with lowered head ; and after a moment she recog-
nized the heavy bulk of the man who held the reins.
The buggy was following the trail and making
straight for the pine-wood through which she had
climbed; and she knew at once that the driver was
in search of her. Her first impulse was to crouch
down under the ledge till he had passed; but the
instinct of concealment was overruled by the relief
of feeling that someone was near her in the awful
emptiness. She stood up and walked toward the
Mr. Royall saw her, and touched the horse with
the whip. A minute or two later he was abreast
of Charity; their eyes met, and without speaking
he leaned over and helped her up into the buggy.
She tried to speak, to stammer out some explana-
tion, but no words came to her; and as he drew
the cover over her knees he simply said : "The min-
ister told me he'd left you up here, so I come up
He turned the horse's head, and they began to
jog back toward Hamblin. Charity sat speechless,
staring straight ahead of her, and Mr. Royall oc-
casionally uttered a word of encouragement to the
horse: "Get along there, Dan. ... I gave him a
rest at Hamblin; but I brought him along pretty
quick, and it's a stiff pull up here against the
As he spoke it occurred to her for the first time
that to reach the top of the Mountain so early
he must have left North Dormer at the coldest hour
of the night, and have travelled steadily but for
the halt at Hamblin; and she felt a softness at her
heart which no act of his had ever produced since
he had brought her the Crimson Rambler because
she had given up boarding-school to stay with
After an interval he began again : "It was a day
just like this, only spitting snow, when I come up
here for you the first time." Then, as if fearing
tkat she might take his remark as a reminder of
past benefits, he added quickly: "I dunno's you
think it was such a good job, either."
"Yes, I do/' she murmured, looking straight
ahead of her.
"Well," he said, "I tried "
He did not finish the sentence, and she could
think of nothing more to say.
"Ho, there, Dan, step out," he muttered, jerking
the bridle. "We ain't home yet. You cold?" he
She shook her head, but he drew the cover higher
up, and stooped to tuck it in about the ankles. She
continued to look straight ahead. Tears of weari-
ness and weakness were dimming her eyes and be-
ginning to run over, but she dared not wipe them
away lest he should observe the gesture.
They drove in silence, following the long loops
of the descent upon Hamblin, and Mr. Royall did
not speak again till they reached the outskirts of the
village. Then he let the reins droop on the dash-
board and drew out his watch.
"Charity," he said, "you look fair done up, and
North Dormer's a goodish way off. I've figured out
that we'd do better to stop here long enough for
you to get a mouthful of breakfast and then drive
down to Creston and take the train."
She roused herself from her apathetic musing.
"The train what train?"
Mr. Royall, without answering, let the horse jog
on till they reached the door of the first house
in the village. "This is old Mrs. Hobart's
place," he said. "She'll give us something hot to
Charity, half unconsciously, found herself get-
ting out of the buggy and following him in at the
open door. They entered a decent kitchen with a
fire crackling in the stove. An old woman with
a kindly face was setting out cups and saucers on
the table. She looked up and nodded as they came
in, and Mr. Royall advanced to the stove, clap-
ping his numb hands together.
"Well, Mrs. Hobart, you got any breakfast for
this young lady? You can see she's cold and
Mrs. Hobart smiled on Chanty and took a tin
coffee-pot from the fire. "My, you do look pretty
mean," she said compassionately.
Charity reddened, and sat down at the table. A
feeling of complete passiveness had once more come
over her, and she was conscious only of the pleasant
animal sensations of warmth and rest.
Mrs. Hobart put bread and milk on the table,
and then went out of the house: Charity saw her
leading the horse away to the barn across the yard.
She did not come back, and Mr. Royall and Charity
sat alone at the table with the smoking coffee be-
tween them. He poured out a cup for her, and put
a piece of bread in the saucer, and she began to
As the warmth of the coffee flowed through her
veins her thoughts cleared and she began to feel
like a living being again; but the return to life
so painful that the food choked in her throat
and she sat staring down at the table in silent
After a while Mr. Royall pushed back his chair.
"Xow, then," he said, "if you're a mind to go
along " She did not move, and he continued:
"\Ye can pick up the noon train for Xettleton if you
The words sent the blood rushing to her face,
and she raised her startled eyes to his. He was
-ding on the other side of the table looking
at her kindly and gravely; and suddenly she un-
derstood what he was going to say. She continued
to sit motionless, a leaden weight upon her lips.
"You and me have spoke some hard things to
each other in our time, Charity; and there's no good
that I can see in any more talking now. But I'll
never feel any way but one about you; and if you
say so we'll drive down in time to catch that train,
and go straight to the minister's house; and when
you come back home you'll come as Mrs. Royall."
His voice had the grave persuasive accent that
had moved his hearers at the Home Week festival ;
she had a sense of depths of mournful tolerance un-
der that easy tone. Her whole body began to
tremble with the dread of her own weakness.
"Oh, I can't " she burst out desperately.
She herself did not know: she was not sure if
she was rejecting what he offered, or already strug-
gling against the temptation of taking what she
no longer had a right to. She stood up, shaking
and bewildered, and began to speak :
"I know I ain't been fair to you always; but I
want to be now. ... I want you to know ... I
want . . ." Her voice failed her and she stopped.
Mr. Royall leaned against the wall. He was paler
than usual, but his face was composed and kindly
and her agitation did not appear to perturb him.
"What's all this about wanting?" he said as she
paused. "Do you know what you really want? I'll
tell you. You want to be took home and took care
of. And I guess that's all there is to say."
"No . . . it's not all. . . ."
"Ain't it?" He looked at his watch. "Well, I'll
tell you another thing. All / want is to know if
you'll marry me. If there was anything else, I'd
tell you so; but there ain't. Come to my age, a
man knows the things that matter and the things
that don't ; that's about the only good turn life does
His tone was so strong and resolute that it was
like a supporting arm about her. She felt her re-
sistance melting, her strength slipping away from
her as he spoke.
"Don't cry, Charity," he exclaimed in a shaken
voice. She looked up, startled at his emotion, and
their eyes met.
"See here," he said gently, "old Dan's come a
long distance, and we've got to let him take it easy
the rest of the way. . . ."
He picked up the cloak that had slipped to her
chair and laid it about her shoulders. She fol-
lowed him out of the house, and they walked across
the yard to the shed, where the horse was tied. Mr.
Royall unblanketed him and led him out into the
road. Charity got into the buggy and he drew the
cover about her and shook out the reins with a
cluck. When they reached the end of the village he
turned the horse's head toward Creston.
began to jog down the winding road
JL to the valley at old Dan's languid pace.
Charity felt herself sinking into deeper depths of
weariness, and as they descended through the bare
woods there were moments when she lost the ex-
act sense of things, and seemed to be sitting be-
side her lover with the leafy arch of summer bend-
ing over them. But this illusion was faint and
transitory. For the most part she had only a
confused sensation of slipping down a smooth irre-
sistible current; and she abandoned herself to the
feeling as a refuge from the torment of thought.
Mr. Royall seldom spoke, but his silent presence
gave her, for the first time, a sense of peace and
security. She knew that where he was there would
be warmth, rest, silence ; and for the moment they
were all she wanted. She shut her eyes, and even
these things grew dim to her. . . .
In the train, during the short run from Creston
to Nettleton, the warmth aroused her, and the con-
sciousness of being under strange eyes gave her a
momentary energy. She sat upright, facing Mr.
Royall, and stared out of the window at the denuded
country. Forty-eight hours earlier, when she had
last traversed it, many of the trees still held their
leaves; but the high wind of the last two nights
had stripped them, and the lines of the landscape
were as finely pencilled as in December. A few
days of autumn cold had wiped out all trace of the
rich fields and languid groves through which she had
passed on the Fourth of July; and with the fading
of the landscape those fervid hours had faded too.
She could no longer believe that she was the being
who had lived them; she was someone to whom
something irreparable and overwhelming had hap-
pened, but the traces of the steps leading up to it
had almost vanished.
When the train reached Nettleton and she walked
out into the square at Mr. Royall's side the sense
of unreality grew more overpowering. The physical
strain of the night and day had left no room in
her mind for new sensations and she followed Mr.
Royall as passively as a tired child. As in a con-
fused dream she presently found herself sitting with
him in a pleasant room, at a table with a red and
white table-cloth on which hot food and tea were
placed. He filled her cup and plate and whenever
she lifted her eyes from them she found his resting
on her with the same steady tranquil gaze that had
reassured and strengthened her when they had faced
each other in old Mrs. Hobart's kitchen. As every-
thing else in her consciousness grew more and more
confused and immaterial, became more and more
like the universal shimmer that dissolves the world
to failing eyes, Mr. Royall's presence began to de-
tach itself with rocky firmness from this elusive
background. She had always thought of him
when she thought of him at all as of someone
hateful and obstructive, but whom she could out-
wit and dominate when she chose to make the ef-
fort. Only once, on the day of the Old Home Week
celebration, while the stray fragments of his address
drifted across her troubled mind, had she caught
a glimpse of another being, a being so different
from the dull-witted enemy with whom she had
supposed herself to be living that even through
the burning mist of her own dreams he had stood
out with startling distinctness. For a moment,
then, what he said and something in his way of
saying it had made her see why he had always
struck her as such a lonely man. But the mist of
her dreams had hidden him again, and she had for-
gotten that fugitive impression.
It came back to her now, as they sat at the table,
and gave her, through her own immeasurable deso-
lation, a sudden sense of their nearness to each
other. But all these feelings were only brief streaks
of light in the grey blur of her physical weakness.
Through it she was aware that Mr. Royall pres-
ently left her sitting by the table in the warm
room, and came back after an interval with a car-
riage from the station a closed "hack" with sun-
burnt blue silk blinds in which they drove together
to a house covered with creepers and standing next
to a church with a carpet of turf before it. They
got out at this house, and the carriage waited
while they walked up the path and entered a wain-
scoted hall and then a room full of books. In
this room a clergyman whom Charity had never
seen received them pleasantly, and asked them to
be seated for a few minutes while witnesses were
Charity sat down obediently, and Mr. Royall, his
hands behind his back, paced slowly up and down
the room. As he turned and faced Charity, she
noticed that his lips were twitching a little; but
the look in his eyes was grave and calm. Once
he paused before her and said timidly: "Your hair's
got kinder loose with the wind," and she lifted
her hands and tried to smooth back the locks that
had escaped from her braid. There was a looking-
glass in a carved frame on the wall, but she was
ashamed to look at herself in it, and she sat with
her hands folded on her knee till the clergyman
returned. Then they went out again, along a sort
of arcaded passage, and into a low vaulted room
with a cross on an altar, and rows of benches.
The clergyman, who had left them at the door,
presently reappeared before the altar in a surplice,
and a lady who was probably his wife, and a man
in a blue shirt who had been raking dead leaves
on the lawn, came in and sat on one of the benches.
The clergyman opened a book and signed to
Charity and Mr. Royall to approach. Mr. Royall
advanced a few steps, and Charity followed him
as she had followed him to the buggy when they
went out of Mrs. H chart's kitchen; she had the
feeling that if she ceased to keep close to him,
and do what he told her to do, the world would
slip away from beneath her feet.
The clergyman began to read, and on her dazed
mind there rose the memory of Mr. Miles, stand-
ing the night before in the desolate house of the
Mountain, and reading out of the same book words
that had the same dread sound of finality:
"I require and charge you both, as ye will answer
at the dreadful day of judgment when the secrets
of all hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of
you know any impediment whereby ye may not be
lawfully joined together . . ."
Charity raised her eyes and met Mr. Royall's.
They were still looking at her kindly and steadily.
"I will!" she heard him say a moment later, after
another interval of words that she had failed to
catch. She was so busy trying to understand the
gestures the clergyman was signalling to her to
make that she no longer heard what was being
said. After another interval the lady on the
bench stood up, and taking her hand put it in
Mr. Royall's. It lay enclosed in his strong palm
and she felt a ring that was too big for her being
slipped onto her thin finger. She understood then
that she was married. . . .
Late that afternoon Charity sat alone in a bed-
room of the fashionable hotel where she and Harney
had vainly sought a table on the Fourth of July.
She had never before been in so handsomely fur-
nished a room. The mirror above the dressing-
table reflected the high head-board and fluted pillow-
slips of the double bed, and a bedspread so spot-
lessly white that she had hesitated to lay her hat
and jacket on it. The humming radiator diffused
an atmosphere of drowsy warmth, and through a
half -open door she saw the glitter of the nickel
taps above twin marble basins.
For a while the long turmoil of the night and
day had slipped away from her and she sat with
closed eyes, surrendering herself to the spell of
warmth and silence. But presently this merciful
apathy was succeeded by the sudden acuteness of
vision with which sick people sometimes wake out
of a heavy sleep. As she opened her eyes they
rested on the picture that hung above the bed. It
was a large engraving with a dazzling white mar-
gin enclosed in a wide frame of bird's-eye maple
with an inner scroll of gold. The engraving rep-
resented a young man in a boat on a lake over-
hung with trees. He was leaning over to gather
water-lilies for the girl in a light dress who lay
among the cushions in the stern. The scene was
full of a drowsy midsummer radiance, and Charity
averted her eyes from it and, rising from her chair,
began to wander restlessly about the room.
It was on the fifth floor, and its broad window
of plate glass looked over the roofs of the town.
Beyond them stretched a wooded landscape in
which the last fires of sunset were picking out a
steely gleam. Charity gazed at the gleam with
startled eyes. Even through the gathering twi-
light she recognized the contour of the soft hills
encircling it, and the way the meadows sloped to
its edge. It was Nettleton Lake that she was look-
She stood a long time in the window staring out
at the fading water. The sight of it had roused
her for the first time to a realization of what she
had done. Even the feeling of the ring on her
hand had not brought her this sharp sense of the
irretrievable. For an instant the old impulse of
flight swept through her; but it was only the lift
of a broken wing. She heard the door open behind
her, and Mr. Royall came in.
He had gone to the barber's to be shaved, and his
shaggy grey hair had been trimmed and smoothed.
He moved strongly and quickly, squaring his shoul-
ders and carrying his head high, as if he did not
want to pass unnoticed.
"What are you doing in the dark?" he called out
in a cheerful voice. Charity made no answer. He
went up to the window to draw down the blind, and
putting his finger on the wall flooded the room with
a blaze of light from the central chandelier. In
this unfamiliar illumination husband and wife faced
each other awkwardly for a moment; then Mr.
Royall said : "We'll step down and have some sup-
per, if you say so."
The thought of food filled her with repugnance;
but not daring to confess it she smoothed her hair
and followed him to the lift.
An hour later, coming out of the glare of the
dining-room, she waited in the marble-panelled hall
while Mr. Royall, before the brass lattice of one
of the corner counters, selected a cigar and bought
an evening paper. Men were lounging in rocking
chairs under the blazing chandeliers, travellers com-
ing and going, bells ringing, porters shuffling by
with luggage. Over Mr. Royall's shoulder, as he
leaned against the counter, a girl with her hair
puffed high smirked and nodded at a dapper drum-
mer who was getting his key at the desk across
Charity stood among these cross-currents of life
as motionless and inert as if she had been one of
the tables screwed to the marble floor. All her
soul was gathered up into one sick sense of com-
ing doom, and she watched Mr. Royall in fasci-
nated terror while he pinched the cigars in suc-
cessive boxes and unfolded his evening paper with
a steady hand.
Presently he turned and joined her. "You go
right along up to bed I'm going to sit down here
and have my smoke/' he said. He spoke as easily
and naturally as if they had been an old couple,
long used to each other's ways, and her contracted
heart gave a flutter of relief. She followed him
to the lift, and he put her in and enjoined the
buttoned and braided boy to show her to her
She groped her way in through the darkness,
forgetting where the electric button was, and not
knowing how to manipulate it. But a white autumn
moon had risen, and the illuminated sky put a pale
light in the room. By it she undressed, and after
folding up the ruffled pillow-slips crept timidly un-
der the spotless counterpane. She had never felt
such smooth sheets or such light warm blankets;
but the softness of the bed did not soothe her. She
lay there trembling with a fear that ran through
her veins like ice. "What have I done ? Oh, what
have I done?" she whispered, shuddering to her pil-
low; and pressing her face against it to shut out
the pale landscape beyond the window she lay in
the darkness straining her ears, and shaking at
every footstep that approached. . . .
Suddenly she sat up and pressed her hands
against her frightened heart. A faint sound had
told her that someone was in the room; but she
must have slept in the interval, for she had heard
no one enter. The moon was setting beyond the
opposite roofs, and in the darkness, outlined against
the grey square of the window, she saw a figure
seated in the rocking-chair. The figure did not move :
it was sunk deep in the chair, with bowed head
and folded arms, and she saw that it was Mr.
Royall who sat there. He had not undressed, but
had taken the blanket from the foot of the bed and
laid it across his knees. Trembling and holding
her breath she watched him, fearing that he had
been roused by her movement ; but he did not stir,
and she concluded that he wished her to think
he was asleep.
As she continued to watch him ineffable relief
stole slowly over her, relaxing her strained nerves
and exhausted body. He knew, then ... he knew
... it was because he knew that he had married
her, and that he sat there in the darkness to show
her she was safe with him. A stir of something
deeper than she had ever felt in thinking of him
flitted through her tired brain, and cautiously,
noiselessly, she let her head sink on the pillow. . . .
When she woke the room was full of morning
light, and her first glance showed her that she
was alone in it. She got up and dressed, and as
she was fastening her dress the door opened, and
Mr. Roy all came in. He looked old and tired in
the bright daylight, but his face wore the same ex-
pression of grave friendliness that had reassured
her on the Mountain, It was as if all the dark
spirits had gone out of him.
They went downstairs to the dining-room for
breakfast, and after breakfast he told her he had
some insurance business to attend to. "I guess
while I'm doing it you'd better step out and buy
yourself whatever you need." He smiled, and
added with an embarrassed laugh: "You know I
always wanted you to beat all the other girls." He
drew something from his pocket, and pushed it
across the table to her; and she saw that he had
given her two twenty-dollar bills. "If it ain't
enough there's more where that come from I
want you to beat 'em all hollow," he repeated.
She flushed and tried to stammer out her thanks,
but he had pushed back his chair and was leading
the way out of the dining-room. In the hall he
paused a minute to say that if it suited her they
would take the three o'clock train back to North
Dormer; then he took his hat and coat from the-
rack and went out.
A few minutes later Charity went out too. She
had watched to see in what direction he was go-
ing, and she took the opposite way and walked
quickly down the main street to the brick build-
ing on the corner of Lake Avenue. There she
paused to look cautiously up and down the thor-
oughfare, and then climbed the brass-bound stairs
to Dr. Merkle's door. The same bushy-headed
mulatto girl admitted her, and after the same in-
terval of waiting in the red plush parlor she was
once more summoned to Dr. Merkle's office. The
doctor received her without surprise, and led her
into the inner plush sanctuary.
"I thought you'd be back, but you've come a mite
too soon: I told you to be patient and not fret,"
she observed, after a pause of penetrating scrutiny.
Charity drew the money from her breast. "I've
come to get my blue brooch," she said, flushing.
"Your brooch?" Dr. Merkle appeared not to
remember. "My, yes I get so many things of that
kind. Well, my dear, you'll have to wait while I
get it out of the safe. I don't leave valuables
like that laying round like the noospaper."
She disappeared for a moment, and returned
with a bit of twisted-up tissue paper from which
she unwrapped the brooch.
Charity, as she looked at it, felt a stir of warmth
at her heart. She held out an eager hand.
"Have you got the change?" she asked a little
breathlessly, laying one of the twenty-dollar bills
on the table.
"Change? What'd I want to have change for?
I only see two twenties there," Dr. Merkle answered
Charity paused, disconcerted. "I thought . . .
you said it was five dollars a visit. . . ."
"For you, as a favour tf did. But how about
the responsibility and the insurance ? I don't s'pose
you ever thought of that? This pin's worth a hun-
dred dollars easy. If it had got lost or stole,
where'd I been when you come to claim it?"
Charity remained silent, puzzled and half-
convinced by the argument, and Dr. Merkle
promptly followed up her advantage. "I didn't
ask you for your brooch, my dear. I'd a good deal
ruther folks paid me my regular charge than have
'em put me to all this trouble."
She paused, and Charity, seized with a desperate
longing to escape, rose to her feet and held out
one of the bills.
"Will you take that?" she asked.
"No, I won't take that, my dear; but I'll take
it with its mate, and hand you over a signed receipt
if you don't trust me."
"Oh, but I can'tit's all I've got," Charity ex-
Dr. Merkle looked up at her pleasantly from the
plush sofa. "It seems you got married yesterday,
up to the Tiscopal church; I heard all about the
wedding from the minister's chore-man. It would
be a pity, wouldn't it, to let Mr. Royall know you
had an account running here ? I just put it to you
as your own mother might/'
Anger flamed up in Charity, and for an instant
she thought of abandoning the brooch and letting
Dr. Merkle do her worst. But how could she leave
her only treasure with that evil woman? She
wanted it for her baby : she meant it, in some mys-
terious way, to be a link between Harney's child
and its unknown father. Trembling and hating
herself while she did it, she laid Mr. Roy all's money
on the table, and catching up the brooch fled out
of the room and the house. . . .
In the street she stood still, dazed by this last
adventure. But the brooch lay in her bosom like
a talisman, and she felt a secret lightness of heart.
It gave her strength, after a moment, to walk on
slowly in the direction of the post office, and go
in through the swinging doors. At one of the win-
dows she bought a sheet of letter-paper, an en-
velope and a stamp ; then she sat down at a table
and dipped the rusty post office pen in ink. She
had come there possessed with a fear which had
haunted her ever since she had felt Mr. Royall's
ring on her finger: the fear that Harney might,
after all, free himself and come back to her. It
was a possibility which had never occurred to her
during the dreadful hours after she had received
his letter; only when the decisive step she had
taken made longing turn to apprehension did such
a contingency seem conceivable. She addressed the
envelope, and on the sheet of paper she wrote:
I'm married to Mr. Royall. I'll always remember
The last words were not in the least what she
had meant to write; they had flowed from her pen
irresistibly. She had not had the strength to com-
plete her sacrifice; but, after all, what did it mat-
ter? Now that there was no chance of ever see-
ing Harney again, why should she not tell him the
When she had put the letter in the box she went
out into the busy sunlit street and began to walk
to the hotel. Behind the plate-glass windows of the
department stores she noticed the tempting display
of dresses and dress-materials that had fired her
imagination on the day when she and Harney had
looked in at them together. They reminded her
cf Mr. Royall's injunction to go out and buy all
she needed. She looked down at her shabby dress,
and wondered what she should say when he saw
her coming back empty-handed. As she drew near
the hotel she saw him waiting on the doorstep,
and her heart began to beat with apprehension.
He nodded and waved his hand at her approach,
and they walked through the hall and went upstairs
to collect their possessions, so that Mr. Royall might
give up the key of the room when they went down
again for their midday dinner. In the bedroom,
while she was thrusting back into the satchel the
few things she had brought away with her, she
suddenly felt that his eyes were on her and that
he was going to speak. She stood still, her half-
folded night-gown in her hand, while the blood
rushed up to her drawn cheeks.
"Well, did you rig yourself out handsomely? I
haven't seen any bundles round," he said jocosely.
"Oh, I'd rather let Ally Hawes make the few
things I want," she answered.
"That so?" He looked at her thoughtfully for
a moment and his eye-brows projected in a scowl.
Then his face grew friendly again. "Well, I wanted
you to go back looking stylisher than any of them ;
but I guess you're right. You're a good girl,
Their eyes met, and something rose in his that
she had never seen there: a look that made her
feel ashamed and yet secure.
"I guess you're good, too," she said, shyly and
quickly. He smiled without answering, and they
went out of the room together and dropped down
to the hall in the glittering lift.
Late that evening, in the cold autumn moonlight,
they drove up to the door of the red house.
MAR 1 4
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